Friday, July 31, 2015

Roxas’ Endorsement Today

Some things in the world of politics will happen whether we want them or not. There’s nothing we can do to stop the gathering at the historic Club Filipino late afternoon today, July 31, 2015, where President Benigno Aquino III will endorse DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer in the 2016 elections. The endorsement (I would not use “anointment” because for me it connotes religious rite) coincides with the birthday of Mar’s mother, Judy Araneta-Roxas. The event is called “A Gathering of Friends” for it is not legal to hold a Political Convention at this early juncture while COMELEC is yet to issue its calendar of activities to guide election players and the public in general, the schedule and the Do’s and Don’ts for the May 9, 2016 polls.

Even the might and power of the rule of law cannot stop what is about to happen today in San Juan: PNoy endorsing Mar. From the looks of it, both the letters and intent of election laws, specifically Section 13 of RA 9369 that provides for the holding of political conventions 30 days before the filing of CoCs and Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that, in case of manual elections, such political conventions could be held “within thirty days before the commencement of the campaign periods,” as stressed by election law expert Atty. Romulo Makalintal.

I just do not know if the event tonight would bring excitement to the masses as the televised Mar’s wedding proposal to Koring at Willie Revillame’s program “Wowowee” some years back.

PNoy’s endorsement of Mar apparently cannot be stopped even by The Big One and the shaking of the West Valley Fault. As I have said time and again, I am writing this political opinion from my mere standpoint as a story teller. Though this would not make any difference at all, it is mortal sin for a story-teller to sit back, sigh and just allow the things to happen without telling what you have to tell. Also, a PM discussion with my journalist friend Madonna Virola of Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday on the matter compelled me write this piece. 

Like this blog entry, the endorsement would make no difference if the Liberal Party and the ruling coalition would be divided and the LP would crack into factions (In politics they call it “wings”). What is the use and practical benefit of such action if solid support and massive votes cannot swell from all frontiers? There’s already a looming break-up, according to reports, inside the ruling coalition between those who support Senator Grace Poe and Mar Roxas or maybe, other possible presidential candidates, like for instance, Panfilo Lacson who has been the rehabilitation and recovery czar of PNoy.

I would not be surprised seeing the ruling political leaders of Occidental Mindoro at Club Filipino today. But judging from my previous blog entry about the provincial results of presidential elections from 1992 to 2010, local endorsements in no way affect the outcome of our province-mates' votes in the last 23 years.

It is foolish to measure a live snake as well as to ascertain the impact of BS Aquino III’s endorsement as of yet. This question needs an answer: Who among the "presidentiables" or coalitions would be the true opposition? There are still a lot of things about to happen ahead. Endorsement, I think, is a volatile measuring tool for the success and failure of an electoral campaign of a certain candidate for presidency. Same true with surveys and those who are close to Grace Poe knows that. Remember how the survey leader Manny Villar was in the end toppled by PNoy in 2010? Binay himself only had a low 4 % rating before the 2010 elections but he eventually won over Roxas. Roxas may still pull a surprise win over Binay in their “re-match” come 2016 while Binay, as he said, might unload “a lucky punch”. The only certain thing today is uncertainty with regards to presidential aspirants. Another thing, both Roxas and Binay are unstoppable but it would be the more the merrier for the latter. 

The election fever is on today and the madness is about to start. The circus is about to commence. They are unstoppable…  

(Photo: Hataw Tabloid)

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Occidental Mindoro Presidential Votes from 1992 to 2010

Do you have any idea how Occidental Mindoro voted for the presidential race in the last four elections? I’ll tell you later.

As obvious as animals were created for the consumption of man and use of man, top politicians belonging to Liberal Party, the so-called Dream Team, in Occidental Mindoro has been, yet indirectly, endorsing the candidacy of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. But the question is, “What are the impacts of such endorsements of local political officials for a certain presidential aspirant?” Yes, endorsements are important and there’s nothing wrong about it no doubt, but how about its impact?

First, I am a more of a storyteller than a political analyst, just to clear myself. Only backed up by my 3 decades of inaccurately following political occurrences in Occidental Mindoro made me conclude that endorsements have an impact on elections but not the way we think it is. I am into opinion that endorsements in general does not change people’s mind when they already passed the limbo of un-decision. Tellingly, there’s nothing wrong with endorsement but it depends on who they are endorsing. The timing also counts, needless to say. One’s capacity or ability to win, still, is the biggest trick in the political game.

But after the filing of candidacy and the campaign trail is already half way, people will disregard endorsements and vote for the presidential candidate they like for whatever reasons they have. For example, if you intend and already fully convinced to vote Grace Poe for President, you're not going to vote for Mar Roxas because of, say, Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola's endorsement. But endorsements are only indicators for voters as to whether or not they could be comfortable with their chosen candidate but it can never be a driving point in any electoral contest. At the end of the day, the endorsers’ own campaign will be prioritized and given more weight and importance. To emphasize my point, allow me to share to you Occidental Mindoro’s presidential election results from 1992 to 2010 directly from the records of the Philippine Congress. 

In 1992, Jose T. Villarosa endorsed Ramon V. Mitra, his relative, but the people of Occidental Mindoro opted for Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco who garnered 23,893 votes while Mitra only got 19,897 votes. It was Fidel V. Ramos, who later, together with Villarosa became Josephine Ramirez-Sato’s wedding sponsor, gained the presidential seat. In 1998, when the rivalry of Villarosa and Sato already came into fruition, for instance, Joseph Estrada won via landslide both at the provincial and national level despite of the fact most of our local leaders endorsed and campaigned for Jose De Venecia. The same thing happened in the controversial 2004 elections when local political patrons endorsed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but the people of Occidental Mindoro voted for Fernando Poe, Jr. The former gained 34,267 votes compared to 78,688 for the latter. In 2010, the Villarosas led by then Deputy Speaker Amelita C. Villarosa endorsed Gilbert C. Teodoro receiving only 13,700 votes but our province-mates voted for Joseph “Erap” E. Estrada who got the biggest vote in our province’s history that we ever gave to presidential candidate which was pegged at 83,222 votes. As we all know the 2010 presidential race was won by President BS Aquino III and the people of Occidental Mindoro just contributed 50,468 votes for Kris’ elder brother. Please take note that every time Erap, the self-proclaimed man of the masses like Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, contested for presidency, we always make sure Erap was on top of our list. We have provided big numbers for Erap in two occasions, in 1998 and 2010, respectively. In 2010, despite of the fact that before the election he underwent an impeachment trial due to charges of graft practices, bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, the now Manila mayor gained the top post in our certificates of canvass. It was the same predicament Jejomar Binay is facing today. Lest we forget, Occidental Mindoro electorates placed Binay on top in the vice-presidential election getting 81,059 votes while Roxas only got 48,107 votes. Now tell me, have we achieved political maturity after 23 long years? 

If endorsement impact remains at the backseat of a political wagon, why local politicians are still doing this? But before we answer that, let me bring you to the 3 major things to consider in one’s individual campaign: volunteers, voters and financial campaign contributors. Endorsements, compared to animal kingdom, are just preys to attract the predator (read: money and volunteers) and hope the majority of the voters will follow. These three things need to be considered over and above one’s political platform and/or party affiliation, including strategies and mechanisms. One thing is certain: endorsements as such manifest the existence of a deadly animal called Patronage Politics. True enough, the Patron-Client relationship does not only exist between the politician and the voter but between a local candidate and a national candidate as well. Whatever would be its impacts.

Thomas Love Peacock once said: “Nothing can be more obvious than that all animals were created solely and exclusively for the use of man.” If politics is also made for the use of man, it is safe to determine that political endorsement is the animal whose only purpose is to benefit the man as a politician, obviously….

(Photo: Provincial Government of Occidental Mindoro)   

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Making of Sablayan’s Tourism Blue Print

Aimed at boosting further the tourism industry in Sablayan, the municipality’s ecotourism office led by Ms. Sylvia T. Salgado launched the inception workshop last July 15, 2015 at the Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall located at the 2nd Floor of the Sablayan Municipal Building. This also serves as a kick-off activity towards the drafting and formulation of the local government’s Tourism Master Plan. The workshop participants came from practically all over the place from both public and private spheres. The tourism blue print formulation is facilitated by Ms. Chen Reyes-Mencias and her hubby Louie F. Mencias of the Blue Water Consultancy, both staunch advocates and prominent figures in Asia with regards to environmental education and preservation. The firm’s main task is to provide technical assistance to the local government unit in coming up with tourism master plan. Next to agriculture, tourism is lifeblood of this largest municipality in the Philippines.

Ms. Mencias, while presenting the rationale of the project, have made me discover the negative impacts of unplanned tourism like what was exposed in the documentary “Gringo Trails”. Right here in the Mindoro Island, in April last year, Robert Evora in an article in the Manila Standard Today wrote about the enormous shortage of potable water in Puerto Galera. Romeo Roxas, president of the Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Enterprises Association as quoted in the news item disclosed that, “The town has no tourism development plan, no environment management plan and Puerto Galera is fast losing its former grandeur”. Uncontrolled sewage discharge to its coastal waters is the main ecological disturbance threatening said former quiet and serene coastal town of Oriental Mindoro. In Puerto Galera, particularly the White Beach, urban planning and zoning was overlooked. These are classic examples of lack of effective and sustainable tourism plan, aside from hundreds of cultural, social (and moral) dangers posing as hazards brought about by unplanned tourism. This also caused concern to environmental groups due to said tourist destination’s close proximity to a highly sensitive marine biodiversity area like the world acclaimed Verde Island Passage, a strait that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro. 

In Lubang town, also in Occidental Mindoro some years back, Blue Water assisted in mapping out the municipality’s tourism plan through resource mapping and resource inventory of its islands. Lubang Island’s tourism industry is gradually claiming prestige as of this time. Many people, me, included, made mistake in thinking that tourism only deals with promotion or promoting tourist destinations or spots in the social media or elsewhere. Tourism isn’t just organizing tourism councils and establishing tourism offices. Tourism is not only event organizing and projecting cultural activities only the elites and the socialites taking the center stage. Tourism must also serve the people in the community and not just the tourists,- both foreign and local, the local government, businessmen and the contractors. How? That should be considered in the blue print. Ms. Mencias’ input was Tourism 101 for me for it’s the first formal lecture I have received about the industry. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the so-called Butler’s Tourism Life Cycle.

The administration of Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano is in full gear vying for an ecotourism program for “Amazing Sablayan”. It looks forward for sustainable and pro-poor tourism programs which highly consider the plight of the people and their base resources. But to his mind, as relayed in the opening remarks of his executive assistant Bong Marquez in the inception workshop, Sablayan’s best practices in local governance, as magnified in various national awards that made the municipality as a frontline municipality in the country, could also attract tourists aside from its being one of the ecotourism destinations in MiMaRoPa region.

Sablayan in more ways than one (for lack of space I cannot enumerate all here), have demonstrated key features of good governance which include openness, participation, effectiveness, accountability and coherence. These principles must be adhered and/or added to town’s tourism program. The local chief executive also expects that aside from his town’s tourist destinations like national parks Mts. Iglit-Baco and the Apo Reef and the other scenic places, people or tourists from all over would visit Sablayan to study the programs and policies initiated by his administration that again, are too many to mention.

And of course, any visionary leader would not allow his or her tourism program become contributory channel for social, natural and cultural attenuations …


(Photo: Heraldion Manzano)


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Abandoned Chinese Invasion of Mindoro

Even pronounced nation like China passes through turbulent times. In 2012, it experienced a severe shortage of human tetanus vaccinations when many medicine trade companies cease to produce said medicines after seeing that it is no longer profitable. China was alarmed over the spread of tetanus among its citizen. Great nation as it claims to be, today, China is undeniably conducting a creeping incursion in our territorial waters. But did you know that Mindoro could have already been invaded by the Chinese as early as the 13th century? I cannot imagine how life would feel like if it turned that way.

According to Wikipedia, “The first semblance of a political system in Mindoro's experience was provided by China in the 13th century”. The Chinese tried to annex Mindoro but the plan was abandoned when an internal trouble in the Chinese home front ensued. An ancient Chinese explorer named Cheng Ho gained a page in Mindoro history as we have seen. Cheng Ho or Zhen He (1371–1433 or 1435) was a Hui court eunuch and fleet admiral during China's early Ming Dynasty.

In the 13th century, unlike today, there was that strict traditional Chinese isolationist policy. Cheng Ho recalled the armada going to Mindoro and other parts of the archipelago because of this rule. In 1500, it was capital offense to build big ships with the purpose of using it going to foreign soils. Chinese coastal officials in 1525 destroyed all such ships while that time Ferdinand Magellan and other Europeans reached Asian waters. As Portugal, Britain, France and Spain and other European countries dominated global waters, China padlocked her ports and destroyed her gigantic ships.

Contraction, not expansion, was China’s order of the day in the 14th century. Not anymore as the present headlines suggest.

China then was superior compared to other country in the West when it comes to technology, living standards and global influence. But the country became enveloped in a smug self-sufficiency, cultural and economic inwardness, a closed and centralized political system, and an anti-commercial culture. China believes that they do no lack anything in many aspects like that of economy, politics and culture so she closed its door to the rest of the world. It was during the 14th and 15th century. Not anymore as the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea row now suggest.

The recent case filed by Manila against Beijing before the United Nation-backed arbitral tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, according to Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio who is part of the Philippine delegation to the tribunal said that the case, “[It] could take maybe ten years,” and reminded us that, “We should steel ourselves that this will be a long struggle.” But if by chance the Philippines win its case at the tribunal, there is no UN body to enforce the ruling. So, in essence, the decision of the tribunal would not mean much.

Meanwhile, a ship called BRP Sierra Madre, a military outpost cum navy ship is holding its position in the disputed waters. The World War II vintage ship, even if it is already covered with rusts stays as symbol of our sovereignty.

It could be a potent armament too against the Chinese, in case they run short of anti-tetanus vaccines again…


Friday, July 3, 2015

Tarps for Turfs: Its Ecological and Political Hazards

Political season is near and the early birds are displaying, albeit prematurely, their tarpaulins all over. Only last Friday, while on my way home from Sablayan, newly-posted tarpaulins caught my attention. In it is a picture of a certain political figure from San Jose who had been a candidate seeking a slot at the municipal council in more than three elections in the past but never won. When I first saw the tarp, I have mistaken it for an advertisement of Globe/TM for the political (I am sure of this) material likewise carried the red, white and blue theme but instead of “TM” what was printed in the trap is “TL” which suggest his future campaign slogan, an acronym for “Tamang Leader”. “TL” too stands for the beginning letters of the man’s given name and surname. But allow me to refer to him simply here as TL and understand why I like to just keep to myself the reason why.

If my memory serves me right, TL filed his last candidacy as member for the local legislative council of Municipality of San Jose in 2007 under United Nationalist Opposition or UNO. I was informed that TL is a registered voter of Brgy. Central, San Jose. I was told too that our main man is only visible during election season and also connected in an accounting firm in Manila. Other than this information, I have nothing more to say about TL, his true love or whatsoever. I have seen his campaign posters before and he is neatly wearing a coat and tie. But TL is a pariah in the mainstream political landscape in the province. But since I only saw his tarps in SAMARICA Area for I do not have a chance to travel to MAPSSA lately, I have a hunch that TL is vying for a shot for provincial position, either as board member or governor (or maybe as a congressman). Let us forget about TL momentarily but in due time, when the campaign period is on, we may consider listening to him.

Tarpaulins proliferated everywhere in Occidental Mindoro. Political tarpaulins of the incumbent officials are ever visible projecting their good image. But no doubt we are now entering the new era of what I call “Tarp for Turf”. Practically almost everything needed to be printed for public information were in tarp, signage and everything. In every activity, replacing the old cut-outs and curtains, the tarp took centre stage, literally and figuratively, as backdrop for the platform. The political contenders and pretenders, with their promise of good governance and certain advocacies employ tarpaulins. Political tarpaulins are ugly manifestations not only of the politician’s, but the system’s prevailing culture of lack of delicadeza. Tarpaulins, both the business and the thing, grow like mushrooms in the haystack but sadly, finding the true political leader during election time is as torturous, if not as impossible as finding a needle in a haystack!

But going back to tarpaulins per se, tarpaulins are non-biodegradable for they are xenobiotic so they are ecological hazards. According to experts, due to its high plasticity it takes approximately 500 years to degrade. Take note of this fact: Kahit magka-apo na sa tuhod kolehiyalang grumadweyt na cum laude at kalansay na ang patay na mga minsang ginawan ng tarpaulin na isinabit sa punerarya at sa paaralan (kung minsan kahit na gate ng bahay ng cum laude, na may nakasulat pa na “with love from Papa and Mama”), hindi pa rin matutunaw ang tarp at madaragdag sa libong toneladang basurang nalilikha ng buong lalawigan kada buwan! We know that tarpaulin or tarp is a broad sheet of cloth cover made from a water resistant or waterproof material. Original tarpaulins consisted of a cotton based cloth material. Most modern tarps are made from a polyester material coated with latex or PVC, largely due to cost effectiveness and also strength and longevity gains. Sad to say, it seems that political promises would also take 500 years before they are fulfilled.

But not unlike politicians and political issues, tarpaulins can be re-cycled.  In this tarpaulin (read; garbage) oriented and infested country, while both sitting and aspiring politicians  consider themselves as tamang lider, the informed voters considered them as May Tamang Leader. Tamang Leader and May Tamang Leader are contradiction in terms but ordinary voters could not easily differentiate the two…