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Category Archives: politics

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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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?

#Yes2RH

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 Rappler.com 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: http://www.examiner.com)

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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Senator Bong Revilla resigns, admits links to Napoles

Manila, Philippines (April 1) – “This is for my honor and integrity.”

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. is resigning his senate seat effective April 30. The two-term senator made the announcement during a hastily-called press conference held at the Senate Tuesday afternoon.

Inaamin ko po ang aking naging pagkakasala,” Revilla said, his voice occasionally wavering. “Dahil po dito, ako po ay nagpasyang magbitiw na sa Senado,” he added. His wife, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, stood beside him during his speech.

Pasensya na po sa milyon-milyong Pilipino na bumoto sa akin noong 2004 at 2010,” Revilla continued, fighting back tears. The actor-politician topped the senate race on both election cycles.

bong revilla janet napoles

Senator Bong Revilla and his wife Lani Mercado with Janet Lim-Napoles (Credits: Inquirer.net)

Once regarded as a potential contender for the 2016 presidential polls, Revilla’s public image has taken a big hit since the pork barrel fund scam erupted July of last year. He however remained mum if he still intends to run for the presidency. “I’ll cross the bridge when I get there,” he said.

Revilla’s stunning announcement came a few hours after Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairperson of the Senate blue ribbon committee, recommended the filing of plunder charges against Revilla as well as Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.

The three legislators are being accused of colluding with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in diverting millions of pesos from their respective priority development assistance funds (PDAF) toward fictitious non-government organizations.

In a privilege speech last January, Revilla admitted knowing Napoles personally but denied committing any wrongdoing. He likewise accused the administration of President Benigno Aquino III of being behind the attacks against him.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Revilla said he will focus on hosting “Kaps Amazing Stories” once he leaves the Senate. “I will also do a movie with (former) Senator Miguel Zubiri. It is a local adaptation of Alibaba and the Forty Thieves,’” Revilla added.

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Obama to visit Philippines on April

United States (US) President Barack Obama will visit the Philippines in late April, the White House said in a statement released early Thursday morning (Manila time). Obama’s Asian itinerary also includes Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

The White House noted that the Philippines will be fifth Asian treaty ally Obama will have visited during his presidency.  Obama, according to the statement, will meet with President Aquino “to highlight economic and security cooperation,modernization of the two countries’ defense alliance, efforts to expand economic ties and spark economic growth through the Partnership for Growth, and (strengthening) deep and enduring people-to-people ties.”

As Associated Press reported, Obama was supposed to visit parts of Asia last October but the plan was eventually aborted after the United States government was forced to shutdown its operations when its House of Representatives failed to pass a national budget for over two weeks.


Orlando Quevedo – From ‘pajero bishop’ to cardinal

Pope Francis made global headlines again Sunday evening (Manila time) when he appointed 19 prelates to the rank of cardinal. Of the 19, 16 are under the age of 80, which means they can possibly  elect the successor of the Argentine-born Holy Pontiff in case he dies or resigns.

According to the Associated Press, the would-be cardinals come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines, and Haiti. The consistory will be held on February 22 at the Vatican City. Consistory refers to the official meeting of the College of Cardinals as announced by the pope.

Among the newly-appointed cardinals is Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato. Quevedo will turn 75 on March. He was ordained as priest in 1964, his official biography at the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines says.

Quevedo will be the eighth Filipino cardinal in history, following Rufino Santos, Julio Rosales, Jaime L. Sin, Ricardo Vidal, Jose Tomas Sanchez, Gaudencio Rosales, and Luis Antonio Tagle. Of the seven, only Vidal, Rosales, and Tagle are still living.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (credits: http://www.CBCPOnline.net)

More notably, Quevedo will be the first cardinal from Mindanao. The Vatican Insider praised Quevedo for being a “leader in an area that is a melting pot of Christians and Muslims, a respected peace advocate, and a knowledgeable observer of the conflict ridden situation in Mindanao.” It also noted that he once served as the Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences.

What can perhaps be regarded as the only blot on Quevedo’s stellar career is that he was once implicated in the so-called ‘pajero bishops’ scandal that erupted in mid-2011. It was claimed that the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lavished gifts on the local Catholic hierarchy (apart from towing their line on issues like mining and reproductive health) to maintain their support, giving birth to the derisive moniker ‘Diocese of Malacanang.’

Back then, Margarita Juico, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), revealed that  seven Catholic prelates asked for luxury cars from the agency with the approval of Arroyo. Juico eventually apologized to the bishops after it was later revealed that no one among them in fact received pajeros (or any luxury cars, for that matter).

The controversy centered on Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, who asked Arroyo for funds to buy a brand new Mitsubishi Montero 2008 during his birthday. While Pueblos admitted during a Senate hearing about the issue that he committed a ‘lapse in judgment,’ he insisted he wanted to have that vehicle so he can “further promote and work for peace in the CARAGA region in northern Mindanao.”

For his part, Quevedo explained in a statement published on MindaNews that he “never requested or received from PCSO any vehicle” for his personal use. He clarified that the Toyota Grandia vehicle he acquired through PCSO funds was used for his diocese’s Community Based Health Program.

“We also wanted to use the vehicle for our training team to give seminars for community organizing at the grassroots, capacity building, training of Indigenous Peoples’ leaders, as well as to bring sick people to hospitals when necessary,” he said.

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