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Friday, February 19, 2010

Risa Hontiveros - She Is What We Need In The Senate

"She is the voice of women, farmers, peasants, the poor and the oppressed. She is a staunch critic of graft and corruption in the government."

She has been a tireless advocate for human rights for decades, most notably with her years of stint as member of the Government Negotiating Panel for peace talks with the communist National Democratic Front, which earned her a Nobel Prize nomination. She is not your typical politician. She is senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros.

Why I am blogging about her? Well, it never occurred to me to be this passionate about one candidate who  symbolizes hope for those who have lost faith in their leaders. This extraordinary woman even before she threw her hat on the political arena has already impressed me and countless other Filipinos with her impeccable record as an activist, lawmaker and principled leader.

She was born to a well-off family, studied in a prestigious university and graduated as Cum Laude. She could have chosen a career away from the grinds and hassles of activism, but has seen the need to lead the marginalized sector in their fight for gaining their basic rights, social justice and equal opportunities from what she termed as 'elite democracy'.

As Akbayan Party-List representative, she has authored and filed more than eighty bills and resolutions of which three had been signed into law. As member of the minority in the Lower House, she pushed for the approval of three important measures by working closely with both the majority and minority in Congress. One of them was the CARP Extension with Reforms or CARPER, a law that gives more powers to the government to lower the prices of medicines, and an amendment to the Tax Code to provide greater exemptions to minimum-wage earners.

Risa Hontiveros has also been the most vocal proponent of the House Bill 5043 or more popularly known as the Reproductive Health Bill. She is only one of  few lawmakers who remain unfazed by the Roman Catholic Church's negative propaganda against those who support the RH bill. Although a Catholic, she strongly maintains that the RH bill is vital if not the answer to alleviate poverty brought about by the country's soaring population.

These are just few of Risa's achievements and advocacies that I suppose deserve our second look as voters. Her accomplishments speak of her desire to be a voice for the people, a voice for equality, good governance and transparency. With the growing frustrations and anger towards this administration  felt around every corner, I think it is time that we cease to traverse the traditional way of electing our leaders.

There are a lot of competent and well-intentioned other candidates out there whose names may not be that  popular but have little chances to win. It is a shame that the typical voter still prefers political patronage and easy name recall. Apparently, the voter lacks careful consideration as to the depth and qualities of the candidate he or she is voting. Surveys would show that the likes of Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid are consistently on  top. This only reflects how  the majority of voters lack wisdom in their choices.

And if surveys constitute the pulse of the voters, we may as well be welcoming the proud son of the former dictator to the Senate. His platform as he would advertise is to continue the legacy of his 'great' father. He is no less very proud of what his father had accomplished during his reign. And perhaps this platform strikes chord with  voters that could catapult him to the Senate. Shall this day come to pass, let us exalt ourselves for our 'unparalleled vision' and 'all-conquering wisdom'.

Let us not also forget those reelectionist honorable senators who boycotted the last day of session in Congress. They preferred not to decide on the fate of many pending bills, that had they been deliberated upon and approved, could be beneficial to people. They chose their interests over the nation's. Their loyalty to a billionaire colleague superseded that of their duty to the nation. They are your traditional arrogant politicians who do not deserve our trust.

Personally, it is very frustrating to know that these loathsome faces sit confidently in their lairs awaiting their day of ordainment yet again. But sometimes there is no one to blame but ourselves for our miseries. We are only good at ripping them on the streets when they fail to deliver. This third-world mentality of ours is rooted on our inabilities to be part of the process of change. The opportunities to start anew do not come every day, yet we always fail to seize them. So when is the time? Another six years would be eternity.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Ara Mina: Grilled Or Exposed?

"She just showed her unreadiness. She did allow herself to be cut down to size. She became an instant sensation."

Move over Elle Woods! This is the real deal. Must I say I'm being mean to compare this one to the iconic prejudged Dumbelina of Harvard? Or perhaps I sound too generous to align her with the notoriously pink character in Miss Woods? This Diva is a personification of polarizing superlatives revealed.

I am not a big fan of Mo Twister as I don't normally get to see his program IMO. Neither am I of the sexy actress  turned politician Ara Mina. Not until her famous one-on -one with the Mo that has gone viral on Facebook. The actress at the onset appeared rather uneasy. She must have some inclinations of the jugular she was up to. This is aptly said of one who ventures on something, yet unarmed to do battles with questions more classified as no-brainer; so simple as yes or no - or for or against.

IMO is a show tailored for intelligent discussions. The host oozes with sheer intelligence. His American accent impeccable. His mastery of issues would render you an idiot had you not studied your homework. And barbs of gentle sarcasm would follow as soon as your ignorance is detected. Though a guest may be spared from being whittled upfront, Mo has a penchant for tweeting his sharp criticisms of his guest - this time in an absolute tyranny.

First question goes. For or against private armies. "For?"-- picks Ara Mina - in a questioning tone. Mo could have collapsed from chair. He is obviously up for a ride. He demands her to expound her choice. He reminds her of it being controversial, considering with what occured in Maguindanao. Then she unwittingly justifies her being busy, engrossed with career and/or her district, not so in tuned with national events. Sensing she just fell from high grounds, she struggles to recant albeit obliquely. " I get depressed on hearing such news", she sighs. Mo will then remind her she's running for public office. A colossal OMG! Is this the kind of would-be public servant she personifies? Scary stuff , ain't it?

Her ineptness came to a wider scrutiny from a lady caller, who unhesitatingly expresses her repugnance of showbiz people like her, who seem to care less about things that don't affect them. Aware of her mishap, the booby guest did not allow the bludgeoning to flourish. She rationalizes that news like the massacre in Maguindanao, depresses her and opts not to comment on issues she is not well-versed about. Well, she must be the only adult in the country, who is not aware of little details about the worst election-related massacre in the country's history.

More questions follow. Pre-marital sex. For or against. "Against?" As if she awaits approval from Mo. Does she talk to ghosts? She would have preferred talking to them - their invisible eyelashes batting in collective disagreement. She's on edge. She knows conscientiously. She pares herself down. She self-destructs. She's just moments into the spotlight. And more agonizingly painful closet stuff she's about to draw herself.

Her take on VFA? "I must be in for a serious disgrace". She could be heard mumbling, her eyes roll, her face screams of her utter ignorance. Before she throws her reply, did it occur to her what VFA stands for? She seems not aware that VFA does not stand for your typical Very Frustrating Actress - or any appropriate description of her Vaguely Futile Attempt to redeem herself. It appears that VFA is no staple in sex-laden tabloids, and among gossip-oriented staff or friends, whom she claims to be her source of information.

She would then vote against anti-pornography bill. Is she serious? She "detests" pre-marital sex but would not support measures to clamp down on smut materials or chasing down cybersex maniacs. Is she not aware of Hayden-Katrina saga? She must be alone in her galaxy! One good timely advice - she should get out of her realm and venture in real world where she would practically beg for every single vote in her district.

The rest of the "For or Against" queries did not go unmicroscoped - very monotonous yet predictable. She just showed her unreadiness. She did allow herself to be cut down to size. She became an instant sensation. He had a great episode. He naturally tweeted his joy and pride on a prized catch. This was expected to be a sure hit. And she's been doing well in cyberspace.

If the constitution provides for the separation of the church and of the state as being inviolable, I wish there could also be a separation of showbiz and of politics. This won't be all about gratuitous cruelty. This is reality not lesser in degree to be ignored. How many actor-turned politicians have ventured into politics (as fallbacks) and failed miserably? Needless to name names, but most of them if not petty corrupt are the biggest plunderers.

I don't generalize those array of stars who may be finding their niche in politics. But the stigma clings to everyone's senses, of them purely banking on their popularity rather than the desired qualities in them. With the emergence of media as a powerful tool to educate voters, may we exercise free and pragmatic thinking, weighing in our choices a hundred times.

In this election, voters should not decide in an instant. Others might get easily swayed by flashy ads or celebrity endorsement. The process will not be easy for some. Others will agonize whom to choose till the last moment. Everyone will be armed with his basic rights to decide for his or her future leader. The beauty of democracy is that -every ballot counts as one - be it the ballot of the presumed wise or that of the unwise. For democracy does not distinguish between the right of the wise and the right of the gullible.

And if we who care, do our part and start to enlighten our brothers about the necessity of choosing the right leaders, we will be using democracy to our advantage and benefit. We will have squandered this opportune time if we remain cocooned in our comforts, not doing the least we can, to help usher ourselves into a new beginning. This is a make or break election for our country. We have already lost so much ground in over a decade. And to waste our energies in a yet senseless battle, we shall have lost it before it starts. And the rare chance to win it may never come again.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why Does Manny Villar Dread To Face His Foes?

"The entire nation waited for their champion, to vanquish his 'supposed tormentors' - armed with his esteemed bravado - just quickly dissipated from view."

He did finally speak up. After much speculations that he wantonly avoids Senate grilling - for fear of facing his determined accusers - presidential candidate Senator Manny Villar had his moment. In his privilege speech, he spoke candidly of his just intent to mitigate the hellish traffic situation in the vicinity of C-5 extension - denying all allegations that he benefited from these transactions. His speech sounded very predictable, forceful yet defiant - and carefully crafted so as to sound scrupulous and heartfelt - at times invoking the poor to whom he is indebted and for whom he intended to serve.

The Senate today had put on a show. Our main protagonist is a presidential candidate, who in his bid to refute his accusers was alluding to his political nemeses - as the culprits behind this spectacle. He reiterated that this is nothing but a clear attempt to discredit him, and spoil his reputation, because he is doing well in surveys - claiming his humble beginnings had served as inspiration to the poor.

Senator Manny Villar in his speech, would conjure the gods just to underscore his "innocence" from all accusations leveled against him. He adamantly and repeatedly denies, that he and his corporations benefited from the C-5 project - although a 900-page dossier contains smoldering pieces of evidence that support the allegations. As expected, his speech would delve on the credibility and motive of his accusers, rather than clarifying an issue to prove his "innoconce". Strangely enough, he sounded to be in a campaign mode when at times he would blurt out in Tagalog, narrating his flight from humble beginnings to a successful businessman - to make him more identifiable with the poor, who tend to be credulously gullible to his "groanings".

What transpired was very strange though, as he refused to be interpellated during his speech. If Senator Villar was a true statesman, he could have seized the opportunity and shined brightly by facing his accusers head on - and vindicated himself if indeed he was innocent from all the accusations. Had he spoken the "truth", as opposed to what he branded as "politically motivated ploy" against him - he could have prevailed and consequently gained the trust and sympathy of the people, hence a plus factor for his bid for the presidency. But why in the world would he just disappear after his privilege speech?

This now infamous walking-out of Villar, has already put a dent to the reputation of the Senate as an institution - will subsequently be compounded by a no-show of all of Villar's Senate allies in the next session. Due to a lack of quorum, the Senate failed to vote on whether Villar is to be censured for unethical conduct in connection with the C-5 issue. The Senate allies of Villar's who deliberately prevented the course of justice to take its course, floutingly scoffed at our democracy and the nation's rights to know the truth.

These Senate hoodlums with apocryphal sense of entitlements, are convinced they don't owe the nation an apology. They only showed their true feathers. Behind their panache exhibited in the halls of Senate - also cohabits their stinking self-serving agenda. They just proved to the Filipino people, that their own interests are above the collective whole's. Time and time again, they failed the nation at the behest of political and financial ends.

These celestial names of righteous senators include the mother of all turncoats - Miriam Santiago, the unpredictable Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Bong Revilla, Aquilino Pimentel and the Casper-like almost non-existent mute reelectionist Lito Lapid.

The Filipino nation at this critical time cannot just ignore the mystery shrouded over the C-5 controversy - not with a blink. One of the presidential frontrunners is the man who can shed light on this controversy, chose to perpetually shield himself from the fangs of truth. All the means and avenues are at his disposal, to enlighten the nation whom he owes his stature. The entire nation waited for their champion - to vanquish his "supposed tormentors" armed with his esteemed bravado - just quickly dissipated from view.

Is this the kind of leader we would want to reign over us? Or could this be an ominous warning of an imminent death of transparency and good governance should he gets elected? This demeanor of a presidential frontrunner that derides seekers of truth - in my opinion, has no place in my conscience and therefore has no place in my ballot. As a Filipino, duly empowered to vote, I swear to be wise with my choices -that not even a shred of dubious character and stain of corruption is appended to my candidates.

As part of OFW diaspora worldwide - credited with driving the economy forward - I have the same aspirations that in this election may we vote for the right candidate who could bring our faith back to the government - a government free from corruption, injustices, and self-serving interests. Though this may be remotely possible - with the prevalence of money-politics - coupled with voters' immaturity - whose vote can be swayed by short-term benefit - I don't lose hope that everyone can still be a catalyst for change if we start to do what is expected of us. One thing is certain though - from an optimist point of view - change is possible if we give change a chance.

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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