Friday, November 26, 2010

Corruption Perceptions

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Transparency International (TI) has been releasing its yearly Corruption Perception Index as a tool to measure the degree to which public sector corruption is perceived in countries all over the world.

Many Filipinos give fleeting attention to this yearly report because they have been so desensitized to corruption and because our local TI-Philippines has not made a habit of conducting a press conference to explain the details of the annual assessment. National authorities, particularly during the Arroyo administration, regularly dismissed these reports as a biased “perception” of foreigners and the political opposition who are out to “embarrass the President”.

But what exactly is the Corruption Perception Index (CPI)? And how are we faring in this assessment?

Corruption “perception” is important because corruption is an illegal activity that is hidden, will not be admitted, and very difficult to measure. Analyzing and measuring the number of investigations launched, number of public officials prosecuted, and scandals that hit a government are good indicators of the extent of corruption in a country. But while these activities offer “non-perception” data, they are often the product of the efficiency of the judicial system, freedom of the press, or activism of civil society organizations and do not picture the full extent of corruption in a country.

The CPI, which is calculated using data from 13 sources by 10 independent institutions, is thus a useful tool to determine whether there has been a change in the perceived level of corruption in a country on a year-to-year basis.

Using a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), Transparency International’s 2010 CPI has some very interesting stories to tell. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore are tied at the top of the list with a score of 9.3, followed by Sweden and Finland at 9.2. Some of our neighbors that we know practice good governance also fare well – Australia (8.7) at #8, Hongkong (8.4) at #13, Japan (7.8) at #17, South Korea (5.4) at #39, and Thailand (3.5) at #78.

Not surprisingly, the Philippines is languishing near the bottom of the global rankings. With a CPI of 2.4, we rank 134th among the 178 countries surveyed. What is surprising is that we are now in the same league as Togo, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Honduras, Bangladesh, and the Mugabe- forsaken country of Zimbabwe.

Now here is a really depressing fact. While many Filipinos routinely looked down and considered Indonesia as our most graft-ridden neighbor, it is now ranked way above us at number 110 with a CPI of 2.8.

And what do Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Zambia, Benin, Guyana, Solomon Islands, El Salvador, Samoa, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, and Burkina Faso have in common? Aside from being poor developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, they are all ranked higher than the Philippines.

Clearly, poor economic conditions and less developed political systems do not hinder anti-corruption efforts. It is time that we learn from these “less developed” countries.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conditional Cash Transfers and Corruption

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Ten years ago, world leaders in New York signed the Millennium Development Goals and promised to build a more prosperous, just and peaceful world.

The promise has clearly not been achieved. The review of the MDG Country Reports, including those of the Philippines, has revealed some successes, and also many problems. As a result, an MDG Acceleration Framework, defined by the UN as a “ systematic way to identifying bottlenecks and possible high impact solutions, leading to a concrete plan of action for government” has now been developed to accelerate the realization of specific MDG Goals.

Two social protection programs – social security and social assistance – are now considered as the most critical interventions that can accelerate the achievement of the MDGs by 2015. Social assistance, through the conditional cash transfers (CCT), has thus become vogue in many developing countries eager to placate their suffering poor and at the same time claim MDG success.

It is in this context that I listened intently to the presentations of UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Magdalena Sepulveda and Christian Gruenber of the International Council on Human Rights Policy in the panel “Setting Anti-Corruption Agenda for MDGs: Challenges and Opportunities” in the on-going 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

Since evaluation of CCT programs in developing countries are either few or none, I was particularly interested in finding out whether former President Arroyo’s much maligned CCT measured up to international standards, and whether President Aquino’s dramatic expansion of CCT beneficiaries from 1M to 2.5M households can actually work.

Sepulveda echoed many of the arguments being used by CCT supporters in the Philippines. That giving cash to parents for keeping their children in school and improving their own health is an effective intervention to achieve universal primary education (MDG Goal 2), reduce child mortality (MDG Goal 4), and improve maternal mortality (MDG Goal 5).

She also agreed with the critics of the program that poorly designed and implemented CCT programs open vast opportunities for corruption, and fighting corruption must go hand-in-hand with CCT and MDG interventions.

Sepulveda also pointed out that CCT’s work only when the education and health infrastructure are available in poor communities. Otherwise, the “conditions” of the cash transfer can’t be met and become an added punishment for poor people.

Third, CCTs work best if access to information and transparency are imbedded in the program. Information must be available and accessible - on who will be implementing the program at the national and local levels, who are the beneficiaries, the criteria for their selection – not only to policymakers and the general public but to local communities.

Information access is important, and difficult, because the poor (particularly marginalized groups like indigenous peoples) often have no access to information. The information has to be adapted to their needs, must be in a language that they understand, and must be gender-aware.

Fourth, a clear complaint mechanism must be established at all levels to address questions of the “included” and “excluded” poor households and to report the behaviour of authorities. Finally, Sepulveda asserted that implementation and monitoring systems must ensure the participation of the beneficiaries.

Gruenber adds that since human rights and human development are the main pillars of the UN Millennium Declaration, a monitoring system where women and the youth are involved in real time is required. This monitoring system, adds Gruenber, should be jointly owned by government and the communities and be technology based so complaints can be received and acted upon in real time.

Were these necessary requirements present in the Arroyo CCT program? I don’t think so. Are these requirements for program success present in President Aquino’s billion-peso CCT program? And if not, can these be put in place in time to improve implementation?

Maybe the CCT supporters can take a cure from Sepulveda who warned that the fixation of many developing countries to copy and expand their CCT programs simply because others are doing must be stopped at all cost.

Or maybe, they should just go slower and do a serious evaluation of the program first before promising the poor that we can bring them out of poverty through CCT.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kleptomaniacs and Corrupt Practices

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

One of the good things about attending international conferences is that there are always new statistics to remember, new approaches presented to solve old problems, new materials and publications to bring back home, and new stories from other countries that really stick to your mind.

Global Witness (, a London-based advocacy group that carries out investigations in countries devastated by conflict, corruption and poverty certainly takes the cake as far as anti-corruption investigative reporting is concerned. Robert Palmer head of Global Witness’ Kleptocracy Campaign narrated some of their successful and unsuccessful campaigns to bring African kleptocrats to justice in the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) held in Bangkok recently.

The most shocking narrative involved the case of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, or TNO for short, son of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang who was accused in the report of having amassed wealth far beyond his salary as a public servant and have gone on to spectacular buying sprees in several continents.

In a publication entitled The Secret Life of a Shopaholic: How an African Dictator’s Playboy Son Went on a Multi-Million Dollar Shopping Spree in the US, TNO allegedly bought a $35M property in the reclusive Serra Retreat overlooking the Malibu Beach in California where he has Mel Gibson and Britney Spears as neighbours. Palmer notes that at his salary of $4,000-5,000 a month as Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, TNO would have taken between 580 to 730 years to save enough for this property.

Global Witness also obtained copies of cheques paid out of TNO’s account in Barclays Bank and BNP in Paris to buy, among other things: a Gulf Stream jet ($33 million), three Bugatti Veyron’s (1 for Paris, 1 for California, and a deposit for the 3rd car) at $1.3M each, two Rolls Royce Phantom’s ($350,000 each), four Ferraris ($240,000 each) a Bentley Arnage ($240,000), a 200 foot yacht, and speedboats. His father, President Obiang, was said to have paid $2.6M for a mansion in Maryland suburbs that has 10 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, and an indoor pool in 1979 and another house in the same area for $1.15M the next year.

Equatorial Guinea, fuelled by large oil and gas revenues, is a country that enjoys a per capita income of $37,200, higher than the Philippines and one of the highest in the world. Yet 77% of its population live in poverty, 35% die before age of 40, and 57% lack access to drinking water. A US State Department report in 2009 also documented unlawful killings by security forces, government sanctioned kidnappings, systematic torture of prisoners, arbitrary arrests, government corruption, and restrictions of political and civil rights in the country.

If you are shocked by this data, you will be more shocked to know that as late as 2006 President Obiang went to the US and met Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who called him a “good friend of the US”. And until today, his son TNO walks a free man and will likely succeed him as Equatorial Guinea President soon.

It seems that in some countries, it pays to be corrupt!


This is also posted at

A Global Anti-Corruption Initiative

Dr. Prospero E. De Vera

Anti-corruption and good governance have definitely become global mantras for politicians, civil society organizations, multilateral agencies, and the private sector.

Under the theme Restoring Trust: Global Action for Transparency, the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference that is now on-going in Bangkok has brought together some 1300 delegates from 135 countries to tackle what Thai Prime Minister Abhisit calls a “global menace that must be fought at all fronts”.

As a member of the delegation from the Philippines that includes Dr. Bernd-Markus Liss of the German Cooperation Agency, DENR ASec Danny Nicer, NICP Director Leilene Gallardo, ELAC Deputy Director Gerthie Anda, and Indigenous Peoples leader Venancio Cueno, I was amazed by the continuing expansion of the anti-corruption and good governance debate into areas that have rarely been discussed in the Philippines – corruption, peace and security; fuelling transparency and accountability in the natural resources and energy markets; climate governance; global action for an accountable corporate world; and reaching the MDG’s.

Perhaps, as IACC Chair Justice Barry O’Keefe asserted in his opening speech, this is part of the phenomenon where many countries over the course of the last two decades have “moved from a paradigm of denial that corruption was widespread within their borders to an acceptance that corruption affects all of us, rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped countries, north and south alike.”

Or maybe it’s because many political leaders, like Thai Prime Minister Abhisit, are now putting a face and staking their political future on an anti-corruption agenda.

Buoyed by a newly-released Bangkok University Research Centre opinion poll that ranked him as the most trustworthy Thai politician, Abhisit delivered a well applauded anti-corruption speech to open the conference. Materials on Thailand’s anti-corruption programs also flooded the conference venue. Abhisit’s fighting words were uttered despite surveys showing that 72.3% of Thais believe that the corruption problem in the country will not change, while only 15.5% think it will improve despite Thailand’s hosting the 14th IACC.

Surprisingly, while the Philippines is one of the 149 signatories to the UN Convention Against Corruption and President Aquino was swept to power on an anti-corruption platform, there was no case study, presentation, or even a printed report on the Philippines anti-corruption initiatives in any of the four plenary sessions and more than forty interactive sessions. There was also no high level official, not even someone from the much-hyped Truth Commission, attending the IACC.

Which made we wonder - what is keeping the Aquino administration from rolling-out a similar anti-corruption framework to show the rest of the world that he is ready to stake his leadership in the global anti-corruption movement? Or even better, to at least give a roadmap for Filipinos who want to walk the Daang Matuwid?


This note appears as a column on Political Mirror at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Game Changers for the May 2010 Elections

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

I appeared on Tina Monzon Palma's award winning public affairs show Talk Back last night on the issue - Will Villar be Able to Catch Up? as Manny Villar's Issues Adviser. I answered the question by saying that there are three "game changers" that will determine the outcome of the May 2010 elections. First, the effect of the shift from manual to automation on voter turn out; Second,the endorsement of the Iglesia ni Kristo and the El Shaddai ; and Third, the strength of command votes at the local level by politician clans, traditional politicians, and organized groups.

My premise was simple. Current surveys (Pulse Asia and SWS) say that the Noynoy Aquino leads the presidential race by around 13%-19% and some analysts have started declaring a "run away" and "landslide" victory for him. My position is that surveys (assuming one accepts SWS and Pulse) are based on a 100% voter turnout through their sampling system. Using 50M registered voters as a base and assuming that there is a 100% voter turnout, then a 15% lead (computer as 7.5M votes) really looks formidable and looks like a landslide.

But what will be the voter turnout on May 10? Many analysts use 80% turnout as a base because this was the turnout in previous presidential elections. Using this figure, a 15% lead (15% of 40M votes = 6M votes) still looks formidable. The problem with these analysts is that they are plucking figures from thin air. Nobody knows how the sift from manual to automation will affect voter turnout because no country in the world has tried to do it in this magnitude and pace. Will it be 80%? 70%? 60%? or even 50%? My thesis is that it will go down dramatically because of long lines, automation fright, poor voter education, spoiled ballots, and other imponderables.

If voter turn out goes down to 50% (25 million end up voting) , then a 15% lead in the surveys will only be worth around 3.75 million votes. Suddenly the gap doesnt look impossible.

And I have not included the 9%-10% undecided votes in the equation.

Now factor in the Iglesia ni Cristo and El Shaddai endorsement which is estimated to be around 2-4 million votes and we have a new ballgame.

The third and final game changer is the ground forces. The key questions are: 1) How long will Gibo Teodoro be able to hold on to the still formidable LAKAS-KAMPI machinery given the paucity of funds and the obvious deals that many local candidates have entered into with either the NP or LP? and 2) Who are the organized groups such as the Makabayan and bigger party list groups backing?

The interplay of these three game changers is such that a low voter turnout strengthens the hand of the INK and El Shaddai and the organized groups (political clans, traditional politicians, the MAKABAYAN, and other party list groups). We will know the INK and El Shaddai endorsements in the coming days. But voter turnout and command votes come into the equation only on election day. So who will win on May 10, 2010?


Monday, April 26, 2010

Villar Answers Back

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

In the interest of fair play, and since the level of black propaganda in this electoral campaign has reached a nauseating level never before experienced in our country, I am publishing this material which is now circulating in the internet.


Hindi daw siya magnanakaw. Pero bakit siya nagsisinungaling? Hindi ba’t kapatid ng magnanakaw ang sinungaling.

Sa napakatagal na panahon ay nanahimik ako. Naniwala at patuloy akong naniniwalang may mas mahahalaga pang isyung dapat harapin sa halalang ito kaysa sa magbatuhan ng putik, lalo na kung ito’y pawang kasinungalingan lamang.

He claims he is the son of heroes. Heir to the legacy of his parents, their courage, and integrity. Ngunit bakit siya nagtatago sa likod ng black propaganda? Hindi ba’t utang din niya sa sambayanan ang ipaalam sa mamamayan ang kanyang plataporma, kakayahan, at kapasidad na mamuno?

The issue in this election or any election is competence and track record. Why does he keep quiet on these issues?

Inapi raw sila. Ano naman ang natutunan niya sa karanasang ito?

Noong sinabi kong ako’y ipinanganak na mahirap, kaakibat nito ang leksiyong patuloy na mangarap sa kabila ng kahirapan. Nagsipag ako, nagtiyaga. Natuto akong makipagkapwa- tao sa mga tulad kong isinilang na salat sa oportunidad.

Bakit siya naman ngayon ang nang-aapi?

The issues he and his thousand advisers have hurled against me, have hurt not only me but my family and friends. Nasaktan na po ang aking pamilya, maybahay, mga anak, mga kapatid, at ang aking ina.

Paano mo sasabihin sa isang tindera ng hipon at isda na hindi talaga siya mahirap? Paano mo sasabihin sa aking mga kapatid na karangyaan pala ang magsiksikan sa isang banig at isang kulambo, gayung mas malaki pa ang kulungan ng aso ng isang haciendero sa aming tahanan?

Panahon nang basagin ko ang kanilang mga kasinungalingan. Utang nating lahat na mga kumakandidato, Nacionalista man o Liberal, na ipaalam sa taumbayan ang katotohanan.

Anak ng Tondo

Kasinungalingan ang kanilang paratang na hindi ako kailanman ipinanganak na mahirap.

Katotohan. Ako si Manuel Bamba Villar, Jr., isinilang sa 500 Moriones St. , Sta. Maria, Tondo Manila. Ang aking ama ay isang kawani ng pamahalaan, ang aking ina ay naglalako ng isda at hipon sa palengke. Siyam kaming magkakapatid. Nanirahan kami bilang mga squatters. Natutulog kaming siyam na magkakapatid sa isang makitid na banig sa isang maliit na kulambo.

Kapag umuulan tumutulo ang tubig-ulan mula sa butas-butas na bubong ng aming bahay. Kapag malakas ang ulan at bumabaha sa paligid ng aming tinitirhan, naglulutangan ang mga basura sa paligid. Wala kaming pakialam na naliligo sa ulan, lumalangoy sa baha.

Ganyan ang maging mahirap. Bata kami, walang mga ilog at beach sa kamaynilaan. Lalo namang walang swimming pool, jacuzzi, o bath tub sa aming lugar. Sabik kaming lumangoy kahit na sa dagat ng basura.

Hindi nila ito kainlanman mauunawaan.

Tindero sa Divisoria

Kasinungalingang mayaman daw kami kaya sa pribadong Catholic school ako nag-aral.

Katotohanan. Nag-grade 1 ako sa Isabelo de los Reyes elementary school. Kung mayaman kami, sana nag-nursery, kinder, at prep pa ako, pero hindi. Nag-drop out ako sa Isabelo de los Reyes, inaamin ko. Mas ginusto ko pang maglakwatsa at tumulong sa nanay kong magtinda sa Divisoria.

Ang sinasabi nilang Holy Child Catholic School ay dating maliit na paaralang itinayo ng mga pari para sa mga mahihirap. Malapit sa aming bahay, at walking distance lamang. Dun ako nag-aral. “Pribado” dahil hindi pinapatakbo ng pamahalaan pero hindi pribadong kagaya ng La Salle o Ateneo na alam natin ngayon.

Pag gabi, naglalakad kami ng nanay ko papuntang Divisoria. Bumibili kami ng ilang banyerang hipon para itinda sa palengke. Sa likod ng puwesto, sa isang makitid na bangko ako natutulog. Pag dating ng umaga, nagtitinda kami.

Buong buhay ng ina ko, nagtinda siya ng hipon. Bulag na siya ngayon, ngunit patuloy na naluluha sa tuwing maririnig niya ang mga kasinungalingang ipinapakalat ng mga taong kainlanman ay hindi mauunawaan kung paano maging mahirap.

Napakarami nilang nahagilap na dokumento, bakit hindi sila pumunta sa Divisoria at ipagtanong sa mga matatanda doon si Coring na tindera ng hipon, si Nanay Coring na ina ko? Bakit hindi nila puntahan ang mga batang kasama kong nag-swimming sa dagat ng basura o ang mga nakakita sa aking matulog sa gitna ng lansangan?

Katotohan ba talaga o paninirang puri ang motibasyon sa likod ng kanilang pag-iimbestiga?

Ang Aking Kapatid

Kasinungalingan at kalapastanganang kwestiyunin nila na kahirapan nga ang dahilan ng pagkamatay ng aking kapatid.

Katotohanan. Oo, naospital siya sa FEU. Oo, Funeraria Paz ang nag-asikaso sa pag-eembalsamo sa kanya. Alin diyan ang patunay na kailanman ay hindi kami naging mahirap?

Idinala siya sa FEU dahil may kamag-anak kami roon na maaaring tumulong upang mapadali ang pag-admit sa kanya. Dahil ba sa mahirap kami ay hindi na namin nanaising makatanggap ng magandang serbisyo ang miyembro ng pamilyang may sakit? Bakit hindi nila sinabing sa charity ward siya tinanggap?

Namatay siya sa Leukemia, sakit ng lahi namin. Nang mga panahong iyon, hindi namin lubusang nauunawaan ang ibig sabihin ng Leukemia. Lumalaki ang tiyan niya, at wala kaming sapat na perang pambili ng gamot. Ganunpaman, sa panahong kailangan na siyang itakbo sa ospital, iisipin pa ba naman namin na wala kaming pambayad? Iisipin pa ba naman namin na wala pang teknolohiya para sa bone marrow transplant gaya ng sabi ni Esposo?

Sa mahirap, ang cancer ay cancer. Sa mahirap, ang pamilya ay pamilya. Anuman ang sabihin nila, igagapang, ipagpapalimos, ipagmamakaawa ang isang kamag-anak na may sakit.

Nang mamatay siya, at nag-iiyakan kami, iisipin pa ba naman namin kung pang-mayaman o pang-mahirap ang funeraria na mag-eembalsamo sa namatay? Tatanguan nalang namin ang unang ahenteng lalapit, pipirmahan nalang ang unang dokumentong iaabot para lang maisaayos ang bangkay.

Sa bahay siya ibinurol, kasama ng kanyang mga pangarap dahil maaga siyang binawian ng buhay.

Kami na lamang ang nangarap para sa kanya. Ipinagpapatuloy naming ang pangarap na ito hanggang sa ngayon.

Binanggit ko ang kanyang kuwento sa aking commercial upang magbigay-inspirasyo n sa kapwa naming mahihirap.

They violated the memory of my brother by putting spins on our life and his death. This is what Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party call principled campaign. Cheap politics. Cheap politicians!

Hindi sila mga Diyos para magsabing bawal mangarap ang mahihirap!

Lupa sa Navotas

Natatakot kayong maniwala ang mga mamamayan sa aking kuwento dahil natatakot kayong maglakas-loob ang mga magsasaka’t mga kasama na pangaraping balang araw ay ariin ang inyong mga hacienda, ang lupang kanilangang binubungukal at pinagyayaman.

Minamana ninyo ang inyong mga lupain at ari-arian. Dangal lamang ang maipapamana ng mahihirap sa kanilang mga anak.

Nangarap ang aking pamilya, nagsipag at nagtiyaga. Ipinangutang sa gobyerno ang lupa at tahanang nilipatan.

Hindi ito kagaya ng San Raphael Village na binabanggit ni Winnie Monsod. Hindi ito exclusive subdivision noon, walang gate, walang guwardiya. Hindi sementado, hindi aspaltado. Isang kapirasong lupa sa Navotas, malapit sa Smokey Mountain , lubog sa baha tuwing umuulan.

Kasinungalingang sabihing patunay ito na hindi kami naghirap.

Ang katotohanan ay patunay itong unti-unti man ay nakaangat din kami at maaaring makaahon ang sinumang matapang na haharapin ang mga hamon ng buhay.

Sino Ang Tuta Ni Arroyo?

Ang katotohana’y naninira sila upang pagtakpan ang kahinaan ng kanilang kandidato. Ang katotohanang sa loob ng tatlong termino sa mababang kapulungan at kalahating termino sa senado ay walang naipasa ni isang batas si Noynoy Aquino.

‘Yan naman ang kanilang sagutin. Hindi ba’t trabaho ng isang mambabatas ang magpasa ng batas? Hindi ba’t nangako at nanumpa siyang gagampanan ang responsibilidad na ito, sa mamamayan, sa Diyos, at sa Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas?

Walang-bahala, iresponsable, at tamad, ipagkakatiwala ba natin sa kanya ang kinabukasan ng ating bayan?

Nasaan si Aquino nang iniimbestigahan ang Hello Garci? Hindi ba’t hinarangan niya ang pagpapatugtog ng Hello Garci tapes upang protektahan ang kanyang kaalyadong si Gloria Arroyo?

Mula sa fertilizer scam, Hello Garci, NBN-ZTE broadband, north at south rails, inimbestigahan ang mga ‘yan sa ilalim ng aking pamumuno bilang Senate President. Pinangunahan ng partido Nacionalista ang pag-iimbestiga. Nasaan sila noon?

Sa halip na tumulong ay nakiisa sila sa Administrasyong Arroyo upang palitan ako bilang Senate President. Opo, nakiisa si Noynoy Aquino at Mar Roxas upang tanggalin ako sa puwesto. At nang sila na ang nakaupo, inimbestigahan ba nilang muli si Arroyo? Hindi.

Ako daw ang sikretong kandidato ni Gloria, ngunit kaninong mga kamag-anak ang kasama ng mga Arroyo sa poder maging hanggang sa kasalukuyan? Hindi ba’t ang mga Cojuangco at mga Aquino?

Ilan sa mga dating miyembro ng gabinete ni Arroyo ang nasa grupo ngayon ni Aquino? Dapat bang paniwalaan na nanatili silang malinis sa kabila ng ilang taong paninilbihan sa isang tiwaling pamahalaan?

Ang C5 Road Extension

Mga hipokrito’t mapagpanggap, ako ang inimbestigahan nila sa halip na ang administrasyong kanilang kunwari’y pinupulaan.

Kung totoong may kinalaman ako sa diumano’y kontrobersiya sa C5 Road Extension, di sana’y sa husgado nila ako kinasuhan. Wala akong immunity kagaya ng isang Pangulo Gloria Arroyo. Madali akong maisasakdal kung talaga mayroon silang ebidensiya.

Sa halip ay pinulitika nila ang Senado. Ang mga taong nagtanggal sa akin bilang Senate President ay siya ring nagsabing may kinalaman ako sa C5.

In truth, like the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Araneta-Roxases, and Madrigals, these are the old-rich in Philippine society who cannot and will not accept that someone who comes from the ranks of the poor may just one day lead this nation.

Hindi kayang tanggapin ng mga naghaharing- uring mga ito na isang katulad kong dating mahirap ang mamumuno sa ating bansa. At upang huwag suportahan ng ating mga kababayan ang kagaya nilang hindi haciendero o nagmula sa angkan ng mga pulitiko, sari-saring dumi at baho ang kanilang iimbentuhin upang mapanatili ang kanilang mga pamilya sa kapangyarihan.

Babawiing Gastos sa Kampanya?

Napakalaki na raw ng ginastos ko sa kampanya. Babawiin ko raw ito kung sakaling umupo ako sa Malacanang.

Nangarap po akong maging Speaker of the House of Representatives, natupad ko na ito. Nangarap po akong maging Senate President, natupad ko na rin ito. Ang pagiging Pangulo na marahil ang pinakamatayog sa aking mga pangarap.

Nang mga panahong pinagsasaluhan ng aking pamilya ang kakarampot na pagkain sa mesa, nang mga panahong kailangan kong magbanat ng buto para makapag-aral, nang mga panahong may magkakasakit sa pamilya at wala kaming mahugot na pambili ng gamot --- nang mga panahon ding iyon ay pinangarap kong sana’y magkaroon tayo ng Pangulong kayang tumulong upang wakasan ang ating kahirapan.

Isinilang ang pangarap na iyon sa aking kamusmusan. Ngayong ako’y may sapat nang kakayahan upang tuparin iyon, bakit ko tatalikuran ang pagkakataong makapagsilbi sa mga taong katulad ko’y nangarap ng isang mas magandang bukas?

Hindi ako isinilang na anak ng isang pangulo’t isang bayani, ngunit sa aking mga mata’y wala nang hihigit pa sa kadakilaan at kabayanihan ng aking mga magulang.

If an haciendero can claim to never besmirch the legacy of his parents, why can’t a Tondo boy say the same?

Bakit ko rin yuyurakan ang ala-ala ng aking ama? Bakit ko rin sisirain ang pangalan ng aking inang bagama’t bulag ay makikita pa rin kung ako ay naging mabuti o masamang pangulo?

Hindi ba’t sa isang anak ay magkasing-halaga ang sakripisyo ng isang Cory na pangulo ng Pilipinas at isang Coring na tindera sa Divisoria?

Gumastos ako upang magpakilala. Ginastos ko ang salaping aking pinaghirapan mula pa pagkabata.

Hindi ako nangungutahang- loob sa mga campaign contributors. Wala akong kailangang pagbayaran sakaling maging pangulo. Ilang mga pulitiko, mayayamang pamilya, at mga kamag-anak ang kailangang pagbayarang- utang ng isang Noynoy Aquino?

Kung may pinagkakautangang- loob man ako, ito ay ang mga kasama kong lumaki sa Tondo at kasamang nagtingda sa Divisoria na nagsilbing inspirasyon sa aking kinatatayuan sa kasalukuyan.

Hindi gaya ni Noynoy, mayroon akong mga anak. Dangal at magandang pangalan ang gusto kong ipamana sa kanila.

Hindi ako magnanakaw!

Hindi Magnanakaw

Sabi niya sa kanya ang mga linyang ito?

Nagnakaw na po siya simula nang naging maging bahagi at nakinabang siya sa isang pamilyang nagkait sa mga magsasaka ng Luisita sa lupang sila dapat ang nagmamay-ari.

He was a Congressman, he is a Senator. Why didn’t he do anything?

Dapat bang paniwalaan ang pangako niya ngayong tumatakbo siyang pangulo gayung naging bulag, bingi, at tamad siya sa lumipas na napakaraming mga taon?

Ang mambabatas na walang ipinasang batas ay pangulong hindi kayang panguluhan ang bansa.

The Luisita farmers shall have their land not under another Aquino regime. They shall have it under my presidency!

Ang Isyu

‘Yan po ang isyu sa eleksiyong ito at hindi ang paninirang-puring patuloy na pinagkukublihan ng salat sa kakayahan.

Kasinungalingan ang sabihing may sinseridad mamuno ang isang kandidatong hindi namuno at nanilbihan ng tapat sa mga posisyong kanya nang nahawakan.

Kasinungalingang sabihing mamumuno ng mahusay ang taong walang track record.

An incompetent cannot run a government. His advisers will do that for him. Ang isang mangmang ay paiikut-ikotin lamang ng mga buwitreng nakapaligid sa kanya.

A vote for Manny Villar is a vote for Manny Villar. A vote for Noynoy Aquino, is a vote for his thousand advisers.

Laban ito ng isang Tondo boy sa isang haciendero sampu ng kanyang mga kamag-anak, alipores, at tagapagpayo.

Sa tulong at tiwala ninyo, hindi ko sila uurungan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Honorable Thing to Do

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

The spirited battle to get the status of "dominant minority party" between the NP-NPC and the Liberal Party has hugged the front pages of major newspapers in the past week. The battle started in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) where the NP-NPC coalition won recognition by a vote of 5-2 and shifted to the Supreme Court where the Liberal Party got a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the COMELEC from proceeding with its recognition.

I had not given this issue much thought in the past months until I wrote my blog "A Very Dangerous Maverick" and sifted through the COMELEC website to check out the claim of Joey Salceda that he will carry Noynoy Aquino to victory in the whole Bicol region. Indeed the NP and LP seem to be slugging it out toe-to-toe in most of the provinces and given the continuing defection of LAKAS-KAMPI candidates to the two parties it appears that the Bicolanos will witness a real battle royale in the region.

And then I came across a Cesar V. Sarmiento who is a candidate of the Liberal Party running against former representative Jun Verceles (LAKAS-KAMPI)(one of my best and favorite students in the NCPAG graduate school, but that is another story) in the lone congressional district of Catanduanes .

Could this Cesar V. Sarmiento be a member of the famous Sarmiento clan in Catanduanes that includes former National Telecommunications Commission Deputy Commissioner Jorge V. Sarmiento and COMELEC Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento?

I asked around and it appears that he is.

I also know for a fact that Dr. Larraine Sarmiento, my UP undergraduate batch mate and an alumni of UP NCPAG, is running for councilor in Quezon City (4th district) under the Aksyon Demokratiko party which has openly supported Senator Noynoy Aquino ( Larraine is married to Rene Sarmiento.

Now here's the problem.

COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento participated and voted against the NP-NPC petition for recognition as the dominant minority party. If he is indeed the brother of an official LP candidate and the husband of an official Aksyon Demokratiko candidate in the May 2010 elections, then there is a clear conflict of interest issue here.

Should'nt Commissioner Sarmiento have taken the high road by disclosing that he has relatives running under the LP and inhibited himself from the deliberations?

And why did the NP-NPC not raise this issue and demanded that he inhibit himself from the COMELEC deliberations on the dominant minority party issue?

The Philippine Constitution and R.A. 6713 (Ethics and Accountability law) clearly state that "public office is a public trust" and call on officials to indicate potential conflict of interest and inhibit themselves from the discussions when making decisions that directly or indirectly benefit them.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, as one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, should know this important requirement.

It is bad enough that this accountability and transparency requirement is not given the proper importance by members of Congress. It is worse that the public has allowed this congressional transgression to continue. It is terrible if our Constitutional bodies do the same.

Or does the COMELEC have a different set of rules guiding its commissioners?

I have always held Rene Sarmiento in very high regard since I first met him during the campaign for the ratification of the 1987 Constitution in Catanduanes. My respect has grown since then because of his openness to public scrutiny and criticism in various public fora where we have been invited to speak. I have publicly said that he is the only commissioner that has given COMELEC some decency. I can not understand why he allowed himself to be put in this position.

He should have clearly declared a conflict and interest issue and should have refrained from participating in the deliberations.

It is the only honorable thing to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Very Dangerous "Maverick"

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

On April 14, 2010 Senator Noynoy Aquino proudly proclaimed during a press conference in Cebu that by “Next week, you will all be in shock and awe...One of the stalwarts of the current administration is joining our campaign”.

The media frenzy that followed raised suspicious questions:

Was it going to be Fidel V. Ramos who had earlier sent Alaminos City Mayor Nani Branganza and Pangasinan Governor Victor Agbayani to join Noynoy's camp?

Was it going to be Vice President Noli de Castro who has opted to stay politically-unattached and continuous to enjoy support from the poor?

Was it going to be Finance Secretary Gary Teves who remains one of the few decent men in the Arroyo administration?

And then the announcement came a few days later- its Joey Salceda!

Am I shocked? Am I awed?

Yes I am!!

I am shocked because this is the same Joey Salceda who called President Arroyo a “lucky bitch” during an Ateneo Graduate School forum in 2008 and got away with it because GMA obviously really loved him.

This is the same Joey Salceda who received his share of the JocJoc Bolante fertilizer fund in 2004 while his next district neighbor (and still a GMA loyalist) Rep. Edcel Lagman didn't get any because it was believed that he was not very helpful in the 2004 campaign.

This is the same Joey Salceda who cornered big-ticket projects from the GMA administration such as:

* Construction of the P3.4-billion Daraga International Airport
* P776 million public infrastructure funding
* Installation of the P560-million worth Doppler radar
* P977.3 million for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which assists
70,000 poor families in the province
* P1.25 billion worth of assistance after Typhoon Reming.

And this is the same Joey Salceda who just a few days earlier herded more than 30 administration governors belonging to the National Caucus of Governors, praised Gibo to high heavens, and engineered the signing of a manifesto to “work hard for overwhelming electoral majorities” for Teodoro.

And how does the Aquino camp explain Salceda's decision to jump to their side?

“I think he should be welcomed. He is a very intelligent governor. He’s got the experience of being a legislator. He’s also a governor. I think he should be welcomed in the LP,” said fellow LAKAS to LP political butterfly Ralph Recto.

And at least two of Aquino's senatorial candidates – Rufino Biazon and Risa Hontiveros – welcomed Salceda with open arms into the LP fold because he is a "maverick".

Is Salceda a "maverick"? The last time this was used in political-speak was to justify John McCain's poor choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate.

Everyone is the US was really "shocked and awed" by McCain's unlikely choice of an inexperienced and fact-challenged Alaska Governor who believed that Africa was a country and not a continent, did not know that Mexico, Canada and the US were part of NAFTA, couldn't mention the newspapers she reads, and claimed she had foreign policy expertise because Alaska's was geographically close to Russia.

And what does Joey Salceda think of his switch? He said that he decided to join the LP "because LP officials have allowed me to field my own set of local candidates regardless of political affiliation". And what takes the cake in this whole circus was Salceda's statement that "despite his support for Mr. Aquino, he remains an Arroyo ally" (

And am I "awed"?

I am awed by the audacity of LP leaders to present Joey Salceda as an economic genius without mentioning that he was one of the "economic architects" of the Arroyo administration that has plunged us into the economic and political abyss that we are now in.

I am awed that Salceda could praise Noynoy Aquino and in the same breath say that he supports and remains an Arroyo ally! What happened to "good vs. evil"? And I thought it was Villaroyo and not Aquinoroyo?

Most of all, I am awed by the LP's use of the word "maverick" to describe a political opportunist.

A "maverick" exhibits great independence in thought and action. At least Sarah Palin for all her shortcomings deserves to be called a maverick.

A political opportunist masquerading as a "maverick" is the most dangerous kind. Antique Governor Sally Perez was right when he said - “Noynoy, be careful of Governor Salceda. If he can do it to Gibo, he can do it to you”.

To this I add, Noynoy be careful of what you wish for, this "maverick" may turn out to be your worst nightmare.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Political Turncoats: Tropang Topak vs. Villaroyo

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Political turncoatism is a fact of our political life. Our most loved (Ramon Magsaysay) and most despised (Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) Presidents would not have gone to Malacanang if they did not jump ship from their weak parties to those that offered the best chance to be elected into office.

So don't believe the LP spin masters when they concocted and continue to peddle the Villaroyo theme every time a disgruntled LAKAS-KAMPI member bolts the administration party in favor of the Nacionalista Party.

Why? Because the LP have their own share of Arroyo loyalists who have bolted the administrations sinking ship in favor of the Yellow Army.

As they say, don't throw stones in glass houses.

What are the facts?

There are LP candidates who have loyal ties with the administration:

1. NEDA Director-General Ralph Recto of e-vat fame who ran (and lost) under the administration senatorial slate in 2007 and was rewarded with the NEDA portfolio;

2. Batangas Governor Vilma Santos who was able to beat Arman Sanchez in 2007 mainly because of the strong support of the Ed Ermita and Larry Mendoza clans in Batangas;

3. LAKAS Executive Vice President Sonny Belmonte who was once projected as a possible administration presidential bet in 2010. He is now gunning for the position of House Speaker via the 4th congressional district of QC;

4. House Deputy Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales who has been with the administration party since his first election into office. He served as Majority Leader during the time of Speaker Jose de Venecia;

5. Caloocan City Mayor Recom Echeverri

6. Davao City Mayor Rudy Duterte

7. Cavite Governor Ayong Maliksi

8. QC Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista (now running for QC mayor)

And of course there are LP stalwarts who have yet to fully explain their actions in perpetuating GMA's reign of terror. I simply can not forget how Senator Kiko Pangilinan in 2004 would repeatedly bang the gavel, in tandem with the equally notorious Rep. Raul (and later justice secretary) Gonzales, and say "Noted" every time Senator Nene Pimentel and the FPJ lawyers would question election returns and request that ballot boxes be opened to prove that the fabricated Certificates of Canvas actually tally with documents inside the ballot boxes. He has not, until now, said "Sorry" for this political injustice.

On the other hand, here are some recognized LAKAS-KAMPI stalwarts who have jumped into the NP ship:

1. League of Provinces Chair and Camarines Sur Governor El Ray Villafuerte
2. Surigao del Norte Governor Ace Barbers (reelectionist)
3. Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon (reelectionist)
4. Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas (reelectionist)
5. Rep. Ed Zialcita (now running for mayor in Paranaque)
6. Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy (reelectionist)
7. Cebu Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz (now running for mayor of Mandaue City)
8. Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson (running for governor)

Now what does this tell us? There is no mature and functional political party system in the Philippines. Despite all the claims of "super parties" - NP, LP, KBL, PDP-LABAN, LDP, LAKAS, KAMPI, LAKAS-KAMPI - that their leaders and members will strengthen party membership, refuse to pirate members from other parties, or exercise party discipline, these "super parties" quickly break-up and disintegrate during election season depending on the delivery of campaign funds, availability of administration projects, release of pork barrel funds, and viability of their presidential candidates.

So until Gibo Teodoro hits double digits in the surveys, or produces some sort of miracle, or GMA unleashes tremendous amounts of campaign funds, LAKAS-KAMPI members will continue to jump ship either to the NP or LP.

Even Joe de Venecia nor Fidel Valdez Ramos can not reverse the inevitable disintegration of their beloved LAKAS party. By the next administration, LAKAS-KAMPI would have completed its logical slide into political marginalization.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We Need A Psychologically-Fit President

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Importance of Health Disclosure

The recent release in social networking sites like Facebook and e-groups of the alleged psychiatric evaluation of Senator Noynoy Aquino has centered public attention on the need for full disclosure of the medical condition of candidates as a basis for their fitness for public office.

Supporters of Noynoy Aquino have cried foul and accused the Nacionalista Party of orchestrating a demolition job against their candidate and paraded a letter from Father Tito Caluag stating that he never examined Senator Aquino.

Not to be outdone, ABS-CBN reports that psychiatric evaluation was released by the NP and when asked to name its sources, invoked the “confidentiality” of its sources as a defense against public disclosure.

What is being forgotten in this whole media frenzy is the fact that the medical condition of candidates running for office is a public issue that needs to be addressed. The fact that Noynoy Aquino is running for the President makes the resolution of this issue more critical.

In short, this is not about Noynoy Aquino. This is not about Ninoy and Cory Aquino’s legacy. This is about what is for the good of the nation.

Americans Monitor the Physical and Mental Health of their Presidents

People in developed countries take the mental health of their leaders seriously. In his blog entitled Mental Illness in U.S. Presidents--"Call Me Incompetent But Don't Call Me Crazy" Dr. Rick Lippin said that the mental competence of Presidents are important because: : (

1. We obviously need mentally competent Presidents of the United States
2. We need better laws to ensure such mental competency both prior to and
while holding such an important office; and
3. We need to ensure that psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of
Presidents are as free as possible from any influence whatsoever from
partisan politics.

Dr. Lippin's blog was based on an excellently written article in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases (January 2006) which studied biographical source material in 37 presidents from 1776 to 1974 on the topic of Mental Illness in U.S. Presidents. This journal article concluded that 18 presidents (49%) met the criteria suggesting psychiatric diagnoses and in 10 instances (27%) "a disorder was evident during presidential office, which in most cases probably impaired job performance". Thankfully the authors concluded that no national calamities appeared to have occurred due to presidential mental illness. ( and (

Many American Presidents suffered from psychiatric problems. James Madison, John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce all suffered from major depressive disorders. Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were bipolar, and Woodrow Wilson suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder.

David Shribman, writing in Real Clear Politics said that “some of the presidents, to be sure, came to office with a proclivity to mental disorder, only to find that the stress of office pushed them into illness. But some – Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Pierce – developed mental disorders after their sons died tragically. Neither president was able to commit himself effectively to the task of leadership following such tragic loss". The psychiatrists who did the 2006 study concluded that "(T)raumatic bereavement may have left each one (Coolidge and Pierce) poorly equipped to discharge the demanding responsibilities of office."

Unfortunately, this landmark study only covered US presidents until Richard Nixon. I am sure that if it included the more recent occupants in the White House, the study would reveal that Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's late in life and perhaps even in the White House. George W. Bush has admitted freely that he abused alcohol in the years leading up to his 40th birthday. Bill Clinton, of course led a very colorful life before and during his presidency that produced the scandals of Jennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky.

The American public has consistently demanded that their presidential candidates show their physical and mental fitness for public office. One of the reasons why Senator Paul Tsongas failed to capture the Democratic Party nomination in 1992 was the public concern that his lymph node cancer that afflicted him in the mid-1980s will recur. Governor Bill Clinton went on to win the primaries and became President because of this health issue.

Later events would show that this concern was correct because a few years later Tsongas’ cancer returned and he died of pneumonia and liver failure.

More recently, Republican candidate John McCain repeatedly tried to block the release of his medical records while campaigning for the presidency against Barack Obama. He argued that his melanoma was a thing of the past and will recur if he is elected President. The concern for McCain’s health, coupled with the possibility of a Sarah Palin takeover was one of the reasons for the embarrassing Republican Party loss in 2008.

All these historical precedents bring me back to my original point. It is important, crucial, and necessary to subject all presidential candidates to psychiatric tests to determine their fitness for public office. Noynoy Aquino, because of the allegations that have surfaced, needs to squarely face this issue and not hide behind media statements.

Mental Incapacity

Filipinos hold elections sacred because they pin their hopes on elected officials to solve all of their problems. In a country deeply mired in poverty, Filipinos believe that curbing corruption, alleviating poverty, and exercising good governance can be achieved if they select the best leader from among those running for President.

A presidential candidate must therefore show unquestioned physical and mental fitness for public office to show that he can handle the stresses of managing a nation. The traumatic loss of their sons made US Presidents Coolidge and Pierce poorly equipped to discharge the demanding responsibilities of office. If it is true that Noynoy Aquino suffers from mental incapacity BEFORE he even assumes office, imagine the danger of him experiencing the traumatic situation of Coolidge and Pierce while in office!

The issue of “mental incapacity” is important for another reason - the Constitution cites “mental incapacity” as one of the grounds for declaring the Office of the President vacant.

Article VII, Sec. VIII of the 1987 Constitution states that “In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice-President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term…”

Article VII, Section 8 of the Constitution which deals with vacancies occurring in the Office of the President identifies four (4) specified situations, to wit: (a) death of the incumbent, (b) his permanent disability, (c) removal, or (d) resignation from Office.

Permanent disability, as constitutionalists widely agree, refers not only to physical but also mental incapacity.

Noynoy Aquino's Alleged Psychiatric Evaluation Form

Noynoy Aquino’s alleged Psychiatric Evaluation Form from the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Psychology contains the following details:

“History of Present Illness: The patient is a 36-year old single male with a history of profuse salivation and labile moods since his childhood. He was observed to be sleeping excessively, disoriented and confusing family and household member’s name. When interviewed at the time of psychiatric assessment, the patient said he had difficulty in speech, poor concentration, impaired thinking and melancholia brought about by the stresses of his work and the break-up with his flight attendant girlfriend. He also claimed he felt clumsy and uncoordinated. He also describes what appeared to be a deep sense of foreboding and feeling that the “world was coming to an end.”

“Current Symptoms:

1. Psycho motor retardation
2. Slowed gait and activity
3. Lack of initiative
4. Melancholia
5. Fatigue
6. Lack of self-confidence
7. Lack of sexual interest”

“Substance Abuse History:

Smoker Yes, up to two (2) packs a day
Drugs Yes, teen-age experimentation with Marijuana and various pills
ETOH Yes, solitary drinker”

“…when confronted with stressful or traumatic experiences they transcend into open aggression, most noticeable during the coup d’etat attempts against his mother when she was President. He wanted to execute all the rebel soldiers and their leaders. He claimed that it was these very same men who killed his father, now here they were again trying to kill his whole family.”

Tell Tale Signs?

Critics of Noynoy Aquino have raised this mental condition question as early as Septmber 2009 when news broke out that he was running for President. Despite repeated denials, his media responses, conduct in public debates, mannerisms, and interviews about his life raise many questions. For example:

• He owns a lot of guns, definitely much more than the average gun enthusiast,
as shown in a special television show about presidential candidates
• He sleeps even in places where he shouldn’t be napping, such as during the
GMA-7 Presidential Debates series.
• He did raise tantrums during a Presidential Forum when he thought Tony Lopez, the moderator, was biased in favor of the other candidates
• He laughs a lot in public; smiles even when there is no reason to smile.
• His answers during interviews are sometimes “off tangent” with the question raised.
• He walks, talks, and acts similar to the “Current Symptoms” mentioned in the Report.
• He is very “vindictive” through his pronouncements on various issues (e.g. should he be elected president, he will impeach an Arroyo-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice,).
• He does lack initiative. He has not passed any law, not even a local law after 9 years in the House of Representatives and 3 years in the Senate. He rarely holds committee hearings in the Senate committees that he chairs, and very seldom speaks in plenary debates.

National Interest vs. Privacy Requirements

Is privacy as covered in doctor-patient privilege more important than national interest?

According to George Annas, Professor of Health Law at Boston University School of Public Health in his article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “The Health of the President and Presidential Candidates: The Public’s Right to Know”:

“It is a central legal and ethical principle that physicians should not disclose private medical information to people who are not involved in a patient’s care without the patient’s authorization. The doctor–patient relationship is a confidential one, and a breach of confidentiality is unethical unless it is necessary to protect the public’s health.”

The Public’s Right to Know

So should Aquino’s denial be the end of this issue? Absolutely not! It is the public’s right to know whether he, in fact, suffers from mental incapacity. He and all presidential candidates should allow themselves to undergo psychological examination.

It is in the best interest of the nation that they do. The nation cannot risk that its fate be entrusted to someone who is not psychologically fit to govern.

Extended Education Not a Panacea

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Promising every Filipino access to education is a standard election promise that all candidates mouth off during the campaign. It is not surprising that educational reforms have become standard messages in the on-going presidential debates. Manny Villar wants to expand access to higher education, Dick Gordon promises to increase the monthly salary of teachers to P40,000, Noynoy Aquino wants quality textbooks, and Eddie Villanueva calls for an educational system anchored on moral standards.

What is surprising is that some candidates, perhaps in an attempt to put one better than their opponents, have started to promise the moon to the Filipino voters.

One such example is Noynoy Aquino’s proposal in the recent COCPEA presidential forum to add two more years to the education system purportedly to bring the country to global standards, increase the employability of graduates, and make our manpower internationally competitive.

Increasing the number of years in the educational system is not a new idea. Over the past four decades, the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education (1970), Presidential Commission on Education Reform (1999), and the Presidential Task Force on Education (2008) have proposed the extension of the basic education cycle to improve the content and relevance of basic education and make it internationally competitive.

But what is surprising is that Noynoy Aquino has proposed adding not just one but two additional years of education to every Filipino effectively converting us from a K-10 (kindergarten + 6 elementary + 4 high school) to a K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12) system.

Supporters of this proposal argue that the Philippines is the only Asian country with a 10-year basic education system. Others say students who stay in school longer perform better in international science and math achievement tests; that a long education cycle better prepares students for higher education and the job market, and higher levels of education attainment is strongly correlated to higher wages.

But is increasing the number of years in the school system the best educational reform for a poor country suffering from a continuing fiscal deficit? And are we not better off using our scarce resources to address existing educational problems and programs?

In fact, there are many existing education initiatives, such as early childhood education and the high school bridge program, that have not been fully implemented for lack of funding support. R.A. 8980 or the Early Childhood Care and Development Act of 2000 makes pre-school a prerequisite for enrolling in Grade 1 thus making pre-school education a government responsibility. Current Department of Education (DepEd) data shows that only half of children age 5 are in preschool and some P1.8B is needed to maintain the program at current levels.

The recent congressional hearings on the DepEd budget also showed that we need to build 66,881 classrooms (costing some P43B) and hire 64,060 teachers (based on 1:1 teacher-classroom ratio) just to accommodate our current school population.

And the Philippines, by its own admission, is already lagging behind in its Millennium Development Goal commitment of achieving universal primary education by 2015. The DepEd needs more than P15B annually just to find and bring all school-age children to school and keep them there.

Which brings me to my previous questions – how much money will be needed to add two years to the current education cycle and how does Noynoy Aquino propose to produce this amount given his promise not to raise taxes if elected president? (He has flip-flopped on this position). Remember that he has also promised universal preschool, one million GATSPE scholarships, and technical-vocation education in high schools.

There were no estimates given by Aquino in his speech, in his webpage, via his political supporters, or by his education experts. His quoted media response is to increase GDP by 2% and reclaim P280B from corruption to fund educational reform.

I find this posture fiscally irresponsible and politically pandering. It is also not clear how adding two years to the school system will make us globally competitive.

Even if we assume that the funding required can somehow be magically produced, wouldn’t it be better to spend the money to wipe out the classroom shortage, ensure that all 5 year old children are in preschool, fulfill our international commitment to achieve universal primary education, do school feeding programs, hire additional teachers, or reduce classroom size to improve student-to-teacher ratio and elevate student performance and achievement?

Perhaps the Ateneo-schooled presidential bet should spend a day at the Batasan Elementary School located just a few meters from his old House of Representatives office and experience first hand how more than 50 public school students are crammed in a classroom during the third shift at 7 o’clock in the evening. Then maybe he will realize that adding two more years to a public school student’s life is not the answer to making him internationally competitive, helping him find a decent job, or making his daily school experience bearable.

Gordon's Impossible (or Irresponsible) Dream

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

I have always liked Dick Gordon as the architect of the "Subic miracle", as a very articulate Senator who produced the computerization of elections law (among other advocacy's), and as a life-long Red Cross official who best exemplifies the meaning of the word "volunteer".

This admiration is one of the main reasons why I make it a point to exchange political tsismis with him every time I am in the Senate. And I am always amazed by his off-the-cuff commentaries on the floor debates and the side stories in the Senate.

Dick Gordon has made the plight of government workers (teachers and health workers in particular) one of the pillars of his Platform of Government. He promised to increase the salaries of teachers to P40,000/month in the early presidential debates. Lately, he extended his promise to health professionals who will get P50,000/month under a Gordon presidency.

As an underpaid educator teaching at the University of the Philippines, I am happy that he has decided to give the plight of public sector workers the much needed attention. The University has lost so many of its top-notch professors to the private sector and private universities because it simply can't provide competitive wages. This is the reason why UP officials batted for the exemption from the Salary Standardization Law when they were pushing for the UP Charter. UP got its wish, only to find out later that it could not produce the needed funds to increase salaries.

Upon closer examination, however, Gordon's proposal raises some very disturbing questions that if left unanswered, would show that his promise is a pipe dream, or worse, a terrible nightmare.

First, how much will his proposal cost and where will the money come from?

There are almost 600,000 public school teachers in the country today ( The Department of Health (DOH) website has no data on health workers but one can imagine the huge number given the many tertiary and specialty hospitals in this country.

Multiply P40,000 x 600,000 teachers and P50,000 times the number of health workers and you get an idea of the cost of Gordon's proposal.

And it gets worse.

The 40,000/month salary of public school teachers will be higher than the monthly salary of a Full Professor at the University of the Philippines! And a UP Professor must have a PhD, must have published articles in recognized journals, and be judged by his/her peers are worthy of the title "Professor".

Increasing the pay of teachers and health workers will distort the current salary structure and fuel calls for an increase by other public sector workers.

And then imagine the cascading effect of a P40,000/monthly salary of a public school teacher on the rest of the 1.2 million public servants in this country.

Where will the money come from? Gordon has not provided any details.

Second, what will happen to the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL III) that is just being implemented?

The Senate has just passed a joint resolution empowering the Department of Budget and Management to rationalize the pay scale of government workers. Gordon was one of those who voted for this measure. Is his proposal now a new amendment to the SSL III which can not be fully implemented because of funding problems?

Thirds, increasing the salaries of public sector workers will worsen the already distorted personnel salary (PS) cost of the national budget.

Personnel salaries now account for more than 30% of the national budget. Some departments, like the DepEd, have PS costs that take up close to 90% of their budget.

Salaries of government personnel + the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local governments + automatic appropriations for debt servicing now account for close to 80% of the budget.

Since the IRA allocation, debt servicing, and PS cost are protected by existing laws, any increase in government salaries will result in budget cuts for critical government programs.

Unless of course Gordon can provide additional funds through new taxes, rationalization of fiscal incentives, and of course the famous "I will reduce corruption".

Finally, assuming some funds will be available, aren't these funds better used to address critical development constraints on infrastructure; address classroom, teacher, and book shortages; modernize agriculture; or make us comply with our Millennium Development Goals obligations?

Running for the Presidency requires the presentation of clear and implementable promises. Gordon needs to provide specifics on his promises. Otherwise, his fiscal irresponsibility will only produce impossible dreams.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poor Judgement by the Smoking Senator

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Here are ten important facts about cigarette smoking from the WHO: (

1. Smoking related-diseases kill one in 10 adults globally, or cause four million deaths. By 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people.

2. Every eight seconds, someone in the world dies from tobacco use.

3. Smoking is on the rise in the developing world but falling in developed nations. Among Americans, smoking rates shrunk by nearly half in three decades (from the mid-1960s to mid-1990s), falling to 23% of adults by 1997. In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year.

5. Half of long-term smokers will die from tobacco. Every cigarette smoked cuts at least five minutes of life on average - about the time taken to smoke it.

6. Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. It is a prime factor in heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease. It can cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, oesophagus, mouth, and bladder, and contributes to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys.

7. More than 4,000 toxic or carcinogenic chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke.

8. About 200,000 Filipino men will develop smoking-related diseases in their productive years of age. It was estimated in 1999, that to provide health care for these sick men, and the loss in productivity, cost Filipino taxpayers some P43 billion.

9. Every year, there are about 20,000 smoking-related deaths in the country.

10. Tobacco use will drain nearly 20% of the household income of smokers' families.

So what is Senator Noynoy Aquino thinking when he had this picture taken with the two young women?

Poor lapse of judgement? Ignorant of the perils of smoking and second hand smoke? or maybe he simply doesn't understand the meaning of "leadership by example"?

By the way, he is the only presidential candidate who smokes!!

Noynoy Aquino admits his cigarette addiction and has adopted a "Barack Obama style" response - I will quit smoking when I become President.

But Noynoy Aquino is no Barack Obama.

Barack Obama has shown very good judgement by being extremely discreet with his smoking during the presidential campaign. And he has never been photographed with a smoke with young people around him.

Many legislators in the House of Representatives are joining the fight against cigarette smoking, with several lawmakers leading a bipartisan effort to pass legislation designed to scare smokers into quitting.

The group, which includes LP senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros, is pushing a bill that would require tobacco companies to place “picture warnings” on their products to illustrate the dangers of smoking.

This move by the legislators is in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a May 2003 treaty that includes strategies against the problem of tobacco smoking. The treaty has been ratified by 154 countries, including the Philippines (

In accordance with the treaty provisions, the Philippines has to implement the “picture warning” policy by September 2008, according to Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the FCTC Alliance Philippines.

Maybe Noynoy Aquino can clarify whether he supports this initiative? Maybe Riza Hontiveros can convince her presidential choice to lead this campaign in the Senate?

Or better still, can Noynoy Aquino please clarify his health agenda - does it include an anti-smoking component? Will he support increasing taxes on cigarettes to generate money for lung, larynx, oesophagus, and mouth cancer research and medication?

Studies show that close to 30 percent of Filipino adults smoke even if almost every one in the population is aware of the ill-effects of puffing a cigarette. (

You can count the cigarette addicted Senator in this 30% statistic. But he should be more circumspect in his public actions, or be told clearly that he does not have the license to kill the rest of the Filipino population like you and me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Noynoy Aquino's Legislative Performance

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

I was surfing the world wide web last night when I stumbled upon an interview I gave in The Correspondents show entitled Ang Laban Ni Noynoy that was shown when Noynoy Aquino launched his candidacy late last year.

I argued in that show ( and ( that Noynoy's legislative performance paled in comparison with the other presidential candidates and that the fact that he has not produced a single law will be raised against him as the campaign period shifts into high gear.

As expected, his poor legislative record has become an extremely heavy albatross that has weighed down his campaign. Many columnists and bloggers have made fun of this situation by saying that the much maligned Senator Lito Lapid is more qualified to become President than Noynoy Aquino because he has, at least, produced one law (RA 9999) that would give tax perks to private law firms that render free legal service to poor clients.

In a portion of his official website called The Truth About Noynoy: Huwag Magpalinlang Sa Mga Sabi Sabi (, Noynoy Aquino's supporters answered the question - Wala ba Talagang Nagawa si Noynoy sa Lehislatura? - this way:

"CLAIM: Walang ginawa si Noynoy habang nakaupo sa senado, at hindi sapat ang kanyang mga hinain para sa serbisyong pampubliko.

TRUTH: Senator Aquino’s legislative record is filled with laws that push for transparency, accountability, curbing corruption and leveling the playing field so that special relationships do not take precedence over quality public service. A good lawmaker must not be judged solely on the number of laws penned, but the quality of these laws in the interest of the public good. Congress is a democratic institution that is also meant to guard against government excesses. Aquino believes we already have many good laws, and what is needed is proper enforcement."

There is something wrong, funny, and misleading about this statement.

1. Official records of the Senate and House of Representatives show that none of Noynoy Aquino's principally authored bills have been enacted into law. Then how can his official website say "Senator Aquino’s legislative record is filled with laws that push for transparency, accountability, curbing corruption and leveling the playing field..."?

A bill is not the same as a law. Thousands of bills are filed every year but very few of these bills get enacted into a law. Bills become law because their authors work hard to pass these through committee, defend its merits on the floor, get their colleagues to vote for their bills on second and third readings, and work with their House of Representatives counterparts to reconcile differences in the Senate and House versions.

Is this poor staff work or simply an attempt to mislead the public?

2. "A good lawmaker must not be judged solely on the number of laws penned, but the quality of these laws in the interest of the public good." True. But if a lawmaker has not even passed a single law, how can he be judged whether his laws are in the interest of the public good?

3. "Aquino believes we already have many good laws, and what is needed is proper enforcement." He may believe this, but this is not a factual statement. Let me enumerate several important bills that need to be enacted into law but continue to languish in the Senate because Senators have been unwilling to act on these:

- The Omnibus Amendments to the Local Government Code (Senate Bill No. 1161) that would correct many of the problems facing the country such as the rampant conversion of municipalities into cities and promote more devolution;

- The National Land Use Code (SBN 3426/843/641/82/76) which would serve as a blueprint for the prioritization and utilization of the country’s land and resources, protect agricultural lands from industrial activities as well as residential conversions, and delineate environmentally protected lands and indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.

- Civil Service Code of the Philippines (Senate Bill No. 1162) that professionalizes the government bureaucracy and protects it from political interference.

- Freedom of Information Act that will allow citizens to access government documents to combat corruption and hold government officials accountable for their actions.

And the list goes on and on and on...

Poor staff work? or Misleading public relations spin to hide poor legislative performance?

You be the judge.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Latest Surveys: Here We Go Again!!

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

The latest Pulse Asia, Manila Standard, and Business World-SWS surveys have generated a new round of analysis, and counter analysis, from supporters and spokesmen of the presidential candidates.

Last night, Tina Monzon-Palma invited me to her show Talk Back to analyze the latest Pulse Asia survey results. I was joined by Pulse Asia President Ronnie Holmes, Aquino campaign spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Gibo Teodoro media head Mike Toledo, and the venerable Ernie Maceda who is Erap Estrada's campaign manager.

The Pulse Asia February 21-25 survey ( declared that Aquino has reclaimed the lead over Villar by a 7 percent margin (36%-29%), that Estrada gained 6% points (12%-18%), and Gibo Teodoro ratings marginally increased to 7% from the January 2010 survey.

Pulse Asia in its media release also stated that the survey was conducted during a period dominated by the following: (1) speech delivered by Senator Manuel B. Villar in the Senate reiterating his innocence in connection with the C-5 road extension project controversy; (2) Senator Panfilo M. Lacson’s departure from the country; (3) official start of the campaign period for national positions; (4) COMELEC’s decision to unseat Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio; (5) declaration of Lakas-Kampi CMD to field President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as its bet for House Speaker in the 15th Congress; (6) arrest of the Morong 43; (7) onset of the El NiƱo phenomenon; (8) increase in power rates and fluctuations in oil prices; and (9) occurrence of rotating brownouts in different parts of the country and the proposal to grant President Arroyo emergency powers to deal with the energy crisis.

The central questions asked in the show were - Are surveys helping you choose the next president? What and how do the strategists of the candidates use the survey results for their campaign?

While I didn't expect any new earth shaking analysis from Prof. Ronnie Holmes (the Pulse website contains enough analysis and tables), I did expect some new spins from the spokesmen of Aquino, Teodoro, or Estrada.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mike Toledo's grasp of the historical mis-steps by survey groups here and in the US, and his questions on how data gathering can be done in war torn areas.

Manong Ernie was at his best defending Estrada from the "too old" tag given by television viewers, Erap's "Mindanao message", and his sniping of both Aquino and Villar's "saturation" point.

What startled me was the spin given by the Aquino camp when asked about the decrease in Villar's support level. Consistent with his previous media statements, Edwin Lacierda declared that the decrease in Villar's ratings was due to his failure to answer the C-5 corruption allegations. According to Lacierda, the end-January survey did not fully capture the public sentiment about the issue but this new survey has clearly shown that the controversy has affected Villar's ratings.

As a UP Professor who has taught research methods in the graduate school over the past three decades I was shocked by this blatantly misleading analysis and twisting of facts.

If any of my students makes an incorrect interpretation of data he/she would definitely flunk my class!

During the Talk Back show, I had to categorically assert that:

1. Survey groups routinely describe the events happening when a survey is conducted to give the context under which voters preference is generated;

2. But it is impossible to do a one-on-one correlation between certain events (such as the C-5 controversy) and voter's presidential preference (choosing Villar or not). Pulse Asia never claims that there was a correlation. Unfortunately, some campaign spokesmen, and sometimes even the media, make this wrong correlation; and

3. Any such correlation is nothing more than media spin made by supporters of candidates. It is not supported by any empirical or statistical evidence.

If you want to test such a correlation, you have to ask each of the 1,800 survey respondents three questions:

First, are they aware of the C-5 controversy?

Second, among those who are aware, do they believe that the C-5 project is graft ridden? and do they believe Villar is guilty of the allegations of graft and corruption in his sponsorship of the C-5 project?

And third, for those who believe that Villar is guilty, will they vote for him as President if elections were held now?

Then you have to ask the same series of questions for all the other ten events mentioned by Pulse Asia in order to separate the C-5 event vis-a-vis all the other events occurring during the survey period.

Any freshman student of Statistics 101 would know this.

The most recent Manila Standard survey ( of 2,500 registered voters, and the Business World-SWS survey done during the same survey period says that Villar and Aquino are statistically tied!!

C-5 controvery? Mindanao message? It will be interesting to see how the campaign spokesmen explain or spin this!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spinning Survey Results

Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Last December 14, 2009 I reacted strongly to a Philippine Star banner story that read - Noynoy's lead in opinion polls drops, Gibo's rating surges - The Center - which claimed that there was a dramatic increase in voter support for Gibo Teodoro due to "the strength of his bold decisions on the Maguindanao massacre and his impressive showing in two presidential debates".

The newspaper headline was based on a survey made by a certain Issues and Advocacy Center headed by Ed Malay which showed that Aquino has a voter support of only 30 percent, Villar has 23 percent, and Teodoro 10 percent.

Malay was quoted as saying that the debates had harmed Noynoy because (these) "exposed the weakness and lack of depth on the basic issues by the neophyte senator when ranged against a more knowledgeable and experienced candidate such as Teodoro who topped the 1985 bar exams.” He also said that there was a detectable "stationary dive" in Aquino ratings and predicted a further tightening of the presidential race in 2010.

My reaction was carried by Philippine Star ( and Manila Standard ( on December 17, 2009. I criticized the disturbing inconsistency of this survey result with those of SWS and Pulse Asia, questioned the use of terms like "stationary drive" and "pro-rated", and argued that polling groups should be required to present the methods and findings of the surveys to the public.

I also asserted that it is time "that we demand more accountability from the groups behind these surveys, including their owners, directors and analysts, and who pays for their surveys". And warned that if this is not done, "we will be at the mercy of spin masters and manufactured information”.

The survey firm never rebutted my criticisms so I let it pass.

The Pulse Asia and SWS surveys of January 2010, of course, showed Gibo Teodoro with only a 5% voter support.

Yesterday, the newspapers were again abuzz with the news that Gibo Teodoro had dramatically increased his survey result from 5% to 11% in a survey conducted by StratPOLLS, a company identified in the Manila Times, Malaya and GMANews as owned and financed by former Ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua.

StratPOLLS claims that Teodoro gained 6 percent from its September 2009 survey. Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, spokesperson of Teodoro, immediately said that the improved rating “shows that the people are beginning to appreciate the qualifications and capabilities of Gibo to be president.”

Several experts led by UP Prof. Pernia have already criticized StratPOLLS' findings for its sampling frame and the practice of averaging their data with those of SWS and PULSE even if the data gathering methods and questions are incomparable.

I've tried searching "Stratpolls" in the world wide web and can't find a web page!! And I can't electronically access the Stratpols "September 2009 survey results" either!!

Hmmm.... this smells, feels and looks like an administration PR job again.

The emergence of surveys groups who don't even have a web page, and who refuse to disclose their owners, officers, analysts, and survey data have created serious questions on the reliability of surveys in the Philippines.

And media organizations are not helping ensure transparency and accountability for these new survey upstarts because their "survey results" are legitimized by the tri-media through their news coverage.

It is time that the media, COMELEC, academic institutions, and serious civil society organizations demand transparency and accountability in polling. Survey firms must disclose information and their survey data must also be accessible to the public and not just the COMELEC and political parties are required by RA 9006.

The media can do this by only covering polling groups that make public presentations of their survey results where academicians, statisticians, and the public can question their methodology, sampling design, framing of questions, and data analysis. Those who hide behind slick media releases and media spins of political parties and supporters should be criticized and ignored.

If we cant do this, maybe its better to simply ban all polling during the election period.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Analytical Attribution: Gibo and Ondoy

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

A few days ago I wrote my blog entitled "Heroic Leadership: Gibo and Ondoy" in response to the surprisingly aggressive attack made by LAKAS-KAMPI strategists on my Strictly Politics year-end commentary on the impact of Ondoy and Pepeng on Philippine politics.

The attack was contained in the Manila Standard article written by Christine Herrera which quoted LAKAS-KAMPI spokesman Dominguez as saying that I was part of a "politically-motivated vilification campaign" against Gibo Teodoro (

Dominguez also challenged me to "be forthright and tell the public that I (he) was in fact working for another presidential candidate."

After posting my blog on Facebook and getting a rather tepid response from some of my friends, I had planned to let the whole thing go. That was until I learned from friends that the mis-interpreted and obviously politically attributed news release has been carried by several websites and posted all over the internet.

The original Manila Standard article was carried by the Teodoro's campaign website ( and featured in (

It was also carried by Hataw tabloid in a news story titled "Gibo Di Takaw Publicity (Political Analyst Niresbakan)- (, and by the Pilipino Star entitled "Cheap Publicity Binira ng Kampo ni Gibo" (

The Negros Daily Bulletin, a provincial paper also featured it in a story entitled "Political Wannabees Asked: Public Service not Cheap Publicity Stunts"

And Almar Dangilan in a column in Hataw tabloid declared "Gibo Di Mapagsamantala; at RFID Huwag Katakutan" (

Not surprisingly, LAKAS-KAMPI strategists used the official government portal ( and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to attack my personal views. Here’s their news release entitled "Lakas Dares Presidential Wannabees: Do Public Service, Not Cheap Publicity Stunts"
( and (

The news story added that "de Vera must be talking about his candidate, for a man of his stature we would have expected him to be forthright and tell his viewers that in fact he is working for another presidential candidate. Enough of hypocrisy!!

I am tickled by all the attention. And happy to hear that I am now a "man of stature" who is expected to be "forthright" and tell my viewers that I am working for another presidential candidate.

There are just two problems. First, many of the things mentioned in the article are politically attributed to me. I did not say many of those statements in the television program. I strongly suggest that the LAKAS-KAMPI strategists view the show again and please ascribe to me only those statements that I actually made.

The second problem is that my critics are completely missing the point!!

I am not anti-Gibo. I've always held Gibo Teodoro in high regard as a person. We were panelists in a forum organized by Action for Economic Reforms (AER) about a year ago discussing the post-GMA administration political and economic blueprint and I found him to be a very intelligent and articulate speaker who came well prepared for his presentation. I have also publicly declared that his stock was rising because of his performance in the debates.

Don't attack the messenger, address the message!!

This is about very poor government response during Ondoy and Pepeng. This is about heroic leadership in times of crisis. Let's debate on these issues. And while we’re at it, let's include government accountability for the Maguindanao massacre. Let's talk about accountability for arming civilian volunteers and putting them under the control of recognized local warlords. And let's debate on the whole government policy in Mindanao.

These are the discussions that should be hitting the web, newspapers and tabloids. These are the issues that the people should be reading about.

Unless we start focusing on these important issues, then I cannot help but agree with the comments from friends that Gibo’s strategists are just riding on my airwaves.

A good friend MC Canlas from San Francisco wrote the following about my blog "Heroic Leadership: Gibo and Ondoy". "Gibo is not in the news to propel his rating. To attack you by his strategists is one way of getting in the news. Namumulot ng barya sila. Sori sila, di lang anino ni GMA ang dala nila, multo pa ng masamang administrasyon sa kasaysayan ng bansa"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heroic Leadership: Gibo and Ondoy

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

As the nation was celebrating the martyrdom of Jose Rizal last December 30, I had the good fortune of being invited by Pia Hontiveros to do the 2009 year-end political analysis in her award winning program Strictly Politics.

The topics covered a wide range of events - Cory Aquino's death, the tightening presidential and vice-presidential races, GMA's congressional run, the devastation caused by Ondoy and Pepeng - that happened in 2009 and predicting what's in store for the nation in 2010.

I had expected to get flack for predicting that Loren Legarda would overtake Mar Roxas in the January 2010 survey and win the vice-presidential race unless Mar is able to quickly re-establish his achievements and re-brand himself as more than "the man who gave way to Noynoy Aquino".

To my surprise the comments came from an unexpected source - LAKAS-KAMPI Chair and Gibo Teodoro spokesperson Miguel Dominguez who accused me of being part of a politically- motivated vilification campaign against the administration candidate.

In a Manila Standard news story (January 5, 2010) entitled "Mudslinging Ushers in Campaign Period", Dominguez thundered:

“We watched with disbelief how Professor Prospero de Vera shot down the chances of Teodoro in the presidential elections for the failure of his strategists to milk and exploit for free publicity the devastation wrought by the two typhoons.”

The news story continued:

"Dominguez challenged De Vera to be forthright and tell the public that he was in fact working for another presidential candidate.

He said Teodoro marshaled the government’s limited resources amid an overwhelming tragedy, and his “conduct is above politics and beyond moral reproach.”

“While image does matter to him [Teodoro], he doesn’t consciously and deliberately create it for political purposes. To Gibo, character is image. Character is everything,” Dominguez added.

Wow!! I would have loved the media attention given to my analysis except for the fact that Dominguez and the LAKAS-KAMPI strategists completely missed my point.

I did not shoot down the "chances of Teodoro in the presidential elections" and I did not say that his strategists failed "to milk and exploit for free publicity the devastation wrought by the two typhoons".

I simply said that Ondoy and Pepeng brought out the best in the ordinary Filipino who helped each other survive the devastation, and showed the worst in government for failing to immediately rescue people and responding too slowly to the disaster. Ask any ordinary Pinoy, ask especially those trapped in Provident Village, and they will say exactly the same thing.

I also said that had Gibo Teodoro put on a life-jacket, got into a rubber boat, and helped rescue old women and children from the floods, the image of Gibo's heroic rescue would have been worth more than a thousand television ads and propelled him straight into the thick of the presidential race.

Filipinos expect their leaders to do heroic acts during times of crisis. And leaders who do heroic acts go on to win elections!

The image of Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay cradling the bloodied body of Moises Padilla in 1951 was instrumental in propelling him to the presidency two years later. In his campaign for the presidency, Magsaysay would climax his speeches by declaring emotionally: "When I carried the body of Moises Padilla in my arms, it was not the body of Padilla but the body of the humble people of my country" (Time Magazine).

This was not milking and exploiting events for free publicity. This was Magsaysay's way of showing heroic leadership in times of crisis"

And Gibo Teodoro, as NDCC chair and Defense Secretary, could have easily shown this heroic leadership element during Ondoy and Pepeng because disaster management is part of his job.

Alas, Gibo is no Magsaysay.

Or maybe Gibo's strategists can learn from their fellow LAKAS-KAMPI stalwart Senator Lito Lapid's Pampanga gubernatorial run in the 1990's. Lito Lapid felt compelled as he swung from a helicopter to rescue his cabalens from the devastation of lahar. "Leon Guerrero" went on to become Pampanga governor.

Like Magsaysay, Lito Lapid can easily win today as Pampanga governor should he choose to run.

And by the way Governor Dominguez, I am not in the payroll of any presidential candidate.