Category Archives: commentary

Mar Roxas, nagmura dahil sa limang libong piso?

Did he do “it” again?

As Filipinos were preparing for the Lenten holidays, television news anchor Arnold Clavio made an explosive revelation in his column for the tabloid Abante.

Clavio wrote in his article published last April 16 that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas made a scene inside the elite Wack Wack Golf and Country Club during a visit early this month.

Citing an internal incident report, Clavio narrated that Roxas became very upset upon being informed by a registration staff that he has to pay an additional P5,100 for having a companion in the golf course fairway. The companion was identified as Rey Pagunsan, said to be a professional golfer.

Roxas insisted that he should not be paying for Pagunsan’s presence since he will only be “teaching him.” When the staff explained to the secretary that it is what the rules stipulate, Roxas shot back: “T____ ina! Walang presi-presidente sa akin!” He is said to be referring to Philip Ella Juico, the club president.

mar roxas mr palengke

From Mr. Palengke to Mr. Palengkero?

T____ ina! Walang bawal-­bawal sa akin!!!” Roxas further reiterated. His wife Korina Sanchez came over to him upon noticing the commotion but it is not clear if she tried to pacify her husband. In fact, Roxas went on to berate another golf course employee who was tasked to check his payment receipt.

Juico for his part told Philippine Star that his group will be investigating the matter after the Holy Week.

Refusing to pay P5,000 may seem to be a trivial matter for a scion of an aristocratic family like Roxas, but the bigger issue here is his refusal to abide by the rules. If the incident report cited by Clavio in his column is accurate, it is clear that Roxas thinks he can just disregard rules based on his own whim.

This episode involving Roxas is similar to that incident last November involving Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and his sister, Senator Nancy Binay. To restate it briefly, the Binays were barred by three security guards from leaving the exclusive Dasmarinas Village through the Banyan road exit close to midnight of November 30.

The guards said they were merely following the rules agreed upon by the village homeowners. To make matters worse, the three guards were taken into custody by personnel from the Makati police department.  The Binay camp unsurprisingly denied that the guards were placed under arrest.

It can be recalled that Roxas was widely ridiculed in 2008 when he was caught cursing in public during a protest rally at that time. Is it natural for Mr. Palengke to blurt out expletives during inappropriate occasions?

Postscript: Curiously, Juico is the husband of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chair Margarita Juico. The couple has longstanding ties to the Aquino family, dating back to the administration of the late former President Corazon Aquino. In recent years, the Juico couple has been identified with the Samar faction of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration.

The group first gained attention in 2010 when they pushed for the vice presidential bid of then-Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay over Roxas, Aquino’s running-mate.

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Dionisia Pacquiao’s ‘dirty finger’ becomes Internet sensation

Oops, she did it again.

While Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao was busy hammering American boxer Timothy Bradley during their April 13 rematch (Saturday evening in Las Vegas, Nevada), someone else caught the attention of local and international journalists alike – his mother Dionisia Pacquiao.

Sometime during the third round of her son’s bout, the flamboyant 64-year-old was seen on television moving wildly from her ringside seat. She wore a white Filipiniana dress for the fight.

She appeared to be shouting words against her son’s opponent while clutching a rosary and a prayer booklet. At what point, she also seemed to show a dirty finger (although that may be unintentional).

Facebook user Mond Villafria uploaded a 16-second clip of the elder Pacquiao’s antics:

Some observers joked that Mrs. Pacquiao may have cast a “voodoo hex” against her son’s rival.

Manny Pacquiao ended the night on a victorious note, snatching the WBO welterweight title from Bradley via a convincing unanimous decision – 118-110, 116-112, and 116-112.

Curiously, the mother of the returning champion approached Bradley shortly after ring announcer Michael Buffer declared the judges’ decision. What she told her son’s vanquished opponent remains not known.

But clearly, his mom made her presence felt, with the venerable American newspaper USA Today dubbing her the “star of the night.” Also, new Internet memes featuring this image has become viral.

dionesia pacquiao timothy bradley

Did Dionesia Pacquiao flash a dirty finger against Timothy Bradley? LOL

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Will Justice Presbitero Velasco be the swing vote against the RH law?

Pro-life Philippines president Eric Manalang recently predicted in a news conference that the Supreme Court will strike down the reproductive health (RH) law through a close vote. According to him, the outcome of the ruling will likely hinge on two swing justices whom he did not name during the event.

Writing for online media outlet Rappler last July, veteran journalist Maritess Vitug identified Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Diosdado Peralta as potential swing justices. According to her, Velasco is looking for a middle ground wherein the SC “will declare only parts of, not the entire law, unconstitutional.”

Both Velasco and Peralta are appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, herself an opponent of the RH bill. Vitug speculated that Peralta may be inclined to vote against the RH law because he is a former law student at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic education institution.

There are clues on how Velasco may vote on the case at bar. Vitug noted after the fifth and final oral argument that Velasco repeatedly questioned the need to have a RH law. He stressed for one that the Department of Health already has a policy on contraceptives even without the RH law.

Presbitero Velasco

Presbitero Velasco, Supreme Court Associate Justice, is touted as a swing vote in the RH law case

His son, former Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, voted against the RH bill during the second reading at the House of Representatives. On that crucial round of voting, the pro-RH camp won by only nine votes, 113 to 104.

Several months before the actual vote, the younger Velasco joined the so-called 9YL, a group of nine first-term House solons opposed to the said measure. The group include actress and Ormoc City Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez as well as Cebu Rep. Rachel del Mar.

The justice’s son bid for a second term as Marinduque congressman failed when he lost last May 2013 to challenger Regina Ongsiako Reyes. Reyes ran under the ruling Liberal Party while the younger Velasco allied himself with the opposition National Unity Party.

Despite winning by 4000 votes, Reyes was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) with finality for being an American citizen just three days after Election Day. Last December, the Supreme Court affirmed COMELEC’s decision (Justice Velasco understandable did not take part in the case).

Despite the rulings made by COMELEC and the SC, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. insisted that Reyes remains the lone representative of Marinduque. He said that Reyes cannot be unseated yet since her case is still pending before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Of course, Justice Velasco can ultimately view the RH law differently compared to his son. And who knows, he might be swayed by the plea of Belmonte that ruling the RH law as unconstitutional is like “vetoing” the will of the people. Will Velasco listen to the man who’s stopping his son from reassuming his House seat?

Needless to say, RH advocates may be better off putting their money on Peralta than on Velasco. For all intents and purposes, Velasco can be listed as a “no” vote.

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How will the Supreme Court rule on the RH law?

If published reports are to be believed, the 15 magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) is set to announce its ruling on the long-stalled Reproductive Health (RH) law next week, perhaps as early as April 8.

The RH law, otherwise known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act or Republic Act (RA) 10354, was signed by President Aquino last December 2012, capping off years of intense debates and legislative maneuverings.

However, opponents of the law immediately headed to the High Court to challenge its constitutionality. By March 2013, the SC issued, through a 10-5 vote, issued a 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the RH law.

Four months later, voting 8-7, the SC decided to extend the said TRO indefinitely. The way justices voted on the TRO extension is an excellent indicator of how they will eventually vote as regards RA 10354’s constitutionality.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen voted against the issuance of a TRO twice. Justices Martin Villarama and Bienvenido Reyes later joined them.

By being against the TRO, these seven justices essentially gave a green light vis-à-vis the law’s implementation. Why will you pave the way for the implementation of a disputed law if you think it is unconstitutional to begin with?


Supporters of the RH law launched the #Yes2RH campaign via social media

Now, let’s turn our attention to the justices who voted in favor of the TRO. It can be said that they are not necessarily against the RH law (except to the five justices who’ve been vocal against it during the oral arguments). Courts here and overseas regularly issue TROs and injunctions if the seeking party can show that it “will suffer immediate irreparable harm unless the order is issued.” In other words, suspending the implementation of the RH law may have been done out of prudence.

News website first broke the news last February that the RH law may be headed for defeat at the high court. The online news outlet mentioned justices Jose Perez, Teresita De Castro, Jose Mendoza (said to be the assigned writer of the ruling), and Roberto Abad as “inclined” to vote against the law. Incidentally, all four of them voted twice to stop RH law from being implemented.

The news reports prompted the opposing sides on the issue to make last ditch-efforts to sway the justices. Pro-Life Philippines president Eric Manalang called on their adherents to hold prayer vigils. He nonetheless expressed confidence that their side will have a close win depending on how two swing justices vote.

For his part, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the SC will effectively “veto the people’s will” if it rules the RH law as unconstitutional. He noted that the law was passed by legislators in both the House and Senate, in their capacity as duly-elected representatives of their respective constituencies.

Some pro-RH groups like the Likhaan Center for Women’s health used the social media to show that the law enjoys popular support. Using the hashtag #Yes2RH, the group urged adherents of the bill to take pictures of themselves while holding hand-written signs expressing support for the law.

no to RH bill

A “No to RH BIll” tarpaulin outside Our Lady of Loreto Church in Sampaloc, Manila

Will the RH Law have the same fate as the Anti-Cybercrime Law?

The RH law and Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act share a lot of parallelisms although they deal with totally unrelated subjects. First, the two laws were signed by President Benigno Aquino III just three months apart.

Both laws earned fierce opposition even before they got implemented. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that criticisms against RA 10175 only gained traction AFTER it became law. In contrast, staunch opposition to the RH law had been there since a version of the legislation was introduced in the late 1990s.

Critics of RA 10175 and 10354 went to the SC to challenge the constitutionality of the aforementioned laws. And on both instances, the High Court suspended the implementation of these laws. Just like RA 10175, the RH law has a “separability clause.”

It states that “if any part or provision of the law is held invalid or unconstitutional, the other provisions not affected thereby shall remain in force and effect.” Read the full text of 10354 here.

This is crucial in analyzing how the SC will ultimately deal with the constitutional challenge to the RH law. The SC ruling on the case involving RA 10175 shows that the High Court is unwilling to declare an entire law unconstitutional.

On that issue, the SC declared Internet libel constitutional even as it voided several of the law’s provisions. One plausible scenario therefore is for the SC to let the RH law stand as is while gutting some of its contested portions.

(UP NEXT:Will Justice Presbitero Velasco be the swing vote against the RH law?)

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Vice Ganda and the dilemma of Filipino same-sex couples

Vice Ganda in recent years has undoubtedly become the most high profile gay personality in the Philippines. The other person that fits the description would be talk show host Boy Abunda. As early as 2010, some had described him as a “gay icon.”

The comedian, Jose Marie Viceral in real life, was interviewed in Buzz ng Bayan last March 30. There, he talked about his relationship with his boyfriend, whose real identity remains the subject of speculations to this day.

According to him, he wants his boyfriend to eventually marry a woman. He said: “Gusto ko mag-asawa siya kasi, ewan ko, feeling ko magiging masaya rin naman siya doon.” (“I want him to get married because I think he will be happy with it.”)

The “Gandang Gabi Vice” host added that he would set his partner free if and when he decides to settle down. “Kapag nag-asawa na siya, sila na. Hindi na ako hahati.” Vice Ganda may be only speaking for himself, but he must have touched a raw nerve within the Filipino LGBT community, whether they are in a relationship or not.

People in their late 20s or 30s, regardless of relationship status, are frequently asked about their marriage plans. That’s logical because we regard marriage as the final stage or the culmination of a successful relationship (as we say in Filipino, “sa hinaba-haba ng prusisyon, sa simbahan rin ang tuloy”).

However, that’s only good for heterosexual or opposite-sex couples. If you are a same-sex couple here in the Philippines, you can’t possible aspire for marriage even if you and your partner had been in a committed relationship for decades.

jessica soho vice ganda

Vice Ganda, Arnold Clavio, and Jessica Soho (Credits:

Imagine this: You have a partner of 15 years then suddenly, he gets gravely ill. The problem is compounded by the fact that you can’t list him as your qualified dependent in any government entitlement program like SSS, PhilHealth, or PAGIBIG.

Obviously, Philippine law doesn’t offer any legal recognition to same sex couples. In contrast, the Family Code actually offers some benefits for live-in partners, as journalist Raissa Robles pointed out back in 2011.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court was right on the mark when she said last year that the need for same-sex marriages to be legally recognized “touch every aspect of life.”

These marriages are now recognized by their government, thanks to a historic US high court ruling last June which declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

The 1996 law denied to same sex couples a wide array of federal government benefits, including the right to file joint tax returns and get social security privileges. And just today, it was also announced that gay couples can already apply for Medicare benefits.

Same-sex marriage is not likely to be legalized in the Philippines within this generation. Therefore, Filipino LGBTs in a long-term committed relationship will not be able to enjoy the legal protections of being in a duly-recognized marriage even if they are ready for it.

So if you cannot settle down legally with the man or woman you really love, what future lies ahead for the two of you? Ano ba ang patutunguhan ninyo? That puts Vice Ganda’s stand on marriage sad and disappointing but understandable nevertheless.


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You just failed in a class. What now?

Getting a failing mark for a subject at the end of a semester is one experience every college student should never wish to encounter. Aside from the bad psychological effect of having a grade of 5.0 indicated on your transcript of grades forever, failing a subject also has two more implications.

Since you failed, you will necessarily have to take the subject once more (I loved telling my students that “Starting Over Again” is the theme song for flunking kids).

That means spending another four to five months on the same subject! If the subject that you failed is a prerequisite of a higher level subject, you may not be able to finish your program on time.

And by the way, you do have to tell your parents that you failed and have to retake the subject as a consequence (brace for some volcanic eruptions!). Like any catastrophic event that we know, you getting a failing mark will not happen without any warning signs.

Why students fail

Your performance in a class is a matter that only you and your professor know best. In my two years in the teaching profession, I can say that students will not fail a subject just because he or she flunked the finals test (that will be another incriminating circumstance, though).

He/she will a grade of 5.0 because of frequent unexcused absences. A student who’s not attending classes is bound to miss a lot of quizzes and class activities. He or she is also the one who’s always not aware of class requirements.

technological institute of the philippines students

Giving a shout out to my students at the Technological Institute of the Philippines!

Is it avoidable?

Of course it’s a given that a student has an obligation to attend his or her classes regularly. He or she is also expected to perform to the best extent possible. Your parents are not wasting their money on you, right?

It’s a matter of recognizing that there is a problem and having the willingness to address it head-on. Will doing a special project solve your problem? Ask about it!

Maintaining an open line of communication with your professor will be a big plus. If you sense that you have a problem with your class standing, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher about it.

Teachers are required to be able to show students their class standing when asked for it. Needless to say, teachers must be approached politely. It must also be stressed that students should know how to get in touch with their teachers outside the classroom.

Uhm, grades are now entered and I got a 5.0. What do I do?

If you think that the grade you received is erroneous, make sure you have all the evidence (e.g. checked papers, returned quizzes, etc.) to back up your claim.

Grades, even if already encoded in an online portal, can be changed as long as it can be established that it is wrong. Notably, teachers are usually punished for such mistakes.

What’s next for you?

So, you’ve already come to terms with the fact that you got a failing mark for a particular class. How will you move forward from there? Are you going to get disheartened from doing your best in the coming semesters? Or will you take the failure as a sign for you to strive a little harder next time? The choice is your to make. 🙂

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GABRIELA slams GMA News for ‘misleading’ report on Deniece Cornejo

Gabriela Women’s Party denies supporting Deniece Cornejo

Gabriela Women’s Party strongly denied in a statement released Saturday that anyone affiliated with its organization has expressed support for Deniece Minilette Cornejo, the woman who accused television personality Vhong Navarro of rape.

In a report aired on news program 24 Oras last Thursday, correspondent Sandra Aguinaldo implied that the said women’s rights group is backing Cornejo, a 22 year-old freelance model. The segment featured a phone interview with Alnie Foja, a lawyer for Gabriela.

In the recorded interview, Foja explained that rape survivors should not be prejudged and subjected to ‘victim blaming.’ “Hindi madali para sa isang biktima ang lumantad at ilahad ang istorya ng panggagahasa na nagawa laban sa kanya,” she said, noting that doing so ruins a woman’s privacy.

Watch the two-minute report here via YouTube. Apart from Foja, renowned women’s rights lawyer Lorna Kapunan was also interviewed. GMA News used its interview with Foja on two online articles which as of this time has already been taken down (click here and here).

So, how did this issue blow up? In a Facebook post, the lawyer said she was “made to understand” that Sandra (Aguinaldo) was merely doing a public information segment about rape in general.  “That 24 Oras quoted my statement while showing footage of Deniece is DELIBERATELY MISLEADING and MALICIOUS,” Foja wrote (emphasis on the original-TFS).

denise cornejo

In her Facebook profile picture, Deniece Cornejo can be seen with GMA Network CEO Felipe Gozon

In a letter addressed to GMA Network, Foja explained that “it has been the long standing policy of Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela National Alliance NOT to comment on issues that (they) have no first hand knowledge about.” She added: “In this specific case between Ms. Deniece Cornejo and Mr. Vhong Navarro, neither parties have sought our assistance or opinion.”

Here’s her complete letter:

We would like to call your attention to an article published online as well as a news report aired over 24 Oras last January 30, 2014 that explicitly stated our group’s support for Ms. Deniece Cornejo. We would like to clarify that we issued no such statement.

It has been the long standing policy of Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela National Alliance NOT to comment on issues that we have no first hand knowledge about. In this specific case between Ms. Deniece Cornejo and Mr. Vhong Navarro, neither parties have sought our assistance or opinion.

We would like to clarify that the interview conducted by your reporter, Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo, focused primarily on the issue of rape, advance questions relayed to me were even titled as “RAPE 101”. I was likewise careful not to comment on the controversial case and even told Ms. Aguinaldo that I have not monitored it. The questions propounded to me were about rape and rape victims in general and my answers were made with no reference to any particular victim much less to Deniece. I was asked to explain how rape is committed, its impact and repercussions on the victims, the difficulty of filing cases and how the public should react to the victims’ story.

Unfortunately, the interview, I believe was maliciously spun to make it appear that we in Gabriela are supporting Ms. Cornejo. While we appreciate the network’s effort of having taken down the article immediately, we are calling for a public apology and a clarification from the network so that the audience may be enlightened on the truth. Moreover, we hope that the network will exercise caution in the treatment of future stories.


Atty. Alnie Foja

So, what lessons can be derived by professional journalists, bloggers, and researchers from this episode?

1. An interviewer needs to be truthful to his/her interviewee all the time. If they intend to use the information they are seeking to obtain in a certain way, they should be forthright about it.

2. Avoid taking statements out of context.

3. Never assume anything unless your subject specifically said so.


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