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Jake Cuenda at TFC's TIKIM Fun Run

Published in Entertainment

SEEN IN THE CITY: Kapamilya talent, Jake Cuenca performs at TFC's #TIKIM Filipino Food Fun Run last Sunday, May 13, 2018 at the Coyote Point Recreation Area. She was joined onstage by other ABS-CBN artists - Kim Chiu, Inigo Pascual, Gretchen Fullido and Ginger Conejero.   (Photo by Richard Lao, CPA, MSMOT)

A defective democracy

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

It pains us to see what is happening to our motherland, the Republic of the Philippines.

 

Last week, it was brought to the fore that the checks and balances that are part and parcel of a fully functioning democratic state are absent in the Philippines. This was seen in the hasty removal of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, not through impeachment but by a quo warranto petition that saw a small majority of the Supreme Court voting to disqualify her.

 

Numerous legal luminaries have pointed out one very clear fact: the Philippine Constitution states that the only way to remove a chief justice is through impeachment. Yet the majority of the justices blatantly ignored this, apparently bowing to the wishes of the president to remove Sereno from her post at all cost.

 

Sereno may have been removed, but the price to be paid will be heavy, so heavy in fact that democracy itself now stands on the precipice. At worst, it may not survive.

 

Consider that the Philippines has already rid itself of two presidents (Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada) via people power, and a chief justice via impeachment (Renato Corona). Now this.

 

The removal of Sereno is different in that it was both immoral and illegal.

 

The justices who voted to remove her did so out of personal spite. They did not like her because in their minds she was too young. Never mind that as chief justice, Sereno had been performing admirably.

 

But it was the illegal way that the good justices had Sereno removed that may have done permanent damage to the country’s judiciary. Perhaps sensing that impeaching Sereno would have been difficult, if not impossible, they recognized the quo warranto petition that was itself illegal. The time when Sereno could have been removed due to questions over her incomplete filing of requirements had long lapsed. Sereno had been accused of not filing her complete Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, or SALN.

 

She later proved that she did, in fact, have the documents. But the SC justices ignored it. In truth, the lead justice who had long salivated for the post of chief justice and who admitted that she hated the guts of Sereno had herself failed to file her SALNs when she also applied for the position of chief justice.

 

Ah, but here was an incumbent president who had ordered the legislative branch to remove the independent-minded chief justice, and who had somehow been convinced that there were enough SC justices willing to play a part in the illegal and immoral act.

 

We will not hazard a guess as to the reasons the justices kowtowed to the wishes of the president.

 

Suffice it to say that in so doing, they have totally surrendered the independence of the judicial branch of government to the strongman president. And with both houses of Congress already subservient to Rodrigo Duterte, it has become clear that the Philippines is no longer a functioning democracy, but rather a flawed one.

 

Whether the damage can be undone or not remains to be seen, but for now we see no reason to be optimistic.

 

PH tourism in the doldrums

Published in BDolor

I must give credit where credit is due, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s firing of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo at the start of the week was most definitely the right thing to do.

 

The firing was fitting for a Tourism secretary who was not only incompetent, but the P60-million scandal involving the Department of Tourism’s ad placement in a TV show of her brother showed she also allowed at least one serious case of corruption to take place under her watch.

 

This week, just as news of Teo’s axing was announced, it was also learned that yet another similar case had been unearthed. The other sweetheart deal may have been the reason she was finally let go by the president.

 

Incidentally, Teo’s lawyer insisted that she resigned. She was not fired. If that’s what she wants to tell her kids and grandkids, fine. At least she will no longer be a burden to an already overburdened chief executive.

 

Teo should not have been appointed to the post in the first place. Nothing in her background suggested that she would make an able Tourism secretary. All she could show for herself was ownership of a medium-sized travel agency, at best.

 

In the weeks and month that followed her assumption of office, it became clear to DOT officials and employees that Teo had little to offer in terms of being able to craft creative marketing plans needed to sell the country and invite more inbound travelers.

 

She had no new plans and programs to speak of. Neither local nor international tourism flourished under her term. Worst of all, she took a reactive rather than proactive stance on the ills plaguing the industry. The mishandling of Boracay is but one example of the DOT’s inability to recognize a growing problem, one that ultimately blew up on Teo’s face.

 

Meanwhile, the Philippine tourism industry will need a new champion, hopefully one who can deliver the goods for the country.

 

It is a well-known fact that the Philippines lags behind its closest neighbors where tourist arrivals is concerned.  Such places as Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand bring in double or triple the number of visitors that the country is able to bring in every year.

 

Focusing on growing economies like China is a good move, but not at the expense of other markets.

 

I never liked the cocky Dick Gordon, but at least he was able to come up with the unforgettable WoW Philippines campaign when he was tourism sec. Since Gordon is such a rabid supporter of Mr. Duterte, perhaps he can be invited to again handle the tourism portfolio.

 

As for Wanda Teo, she should go back to the private sector and do her bit as a private citizen.

 

The scandal involving her siblings may, however, put a damper on the reported plan of one of them to run for senator.

 

For better or worse, the Tulfo brand is known nationally. Wanda’s brothers Mon, Ben and Erwin Tulfo have long been fixtures in Philippine media, in both print and broadcast.

 

Erwin was supposedly being eyed by the administration PDP-Laban to run for the upper chamber of Congress in the next elections. A survey tagged him as a probable winner if the elections were held today.

 

It is not clear what will happen now that Wanda Tulfo Teo is no longer part of the Duterte administration. Her firing – OK, let’s call it her resignation – has cast her family in a negative light, and it is not clear if the electorate will still voter for her brother Erwin, or even if that brother is willing to run for senator.

 

My guess is that he will not run, considering that a good number of popular media personalities had tried but failed to win in past senate races.

 

As for Teo, her time in public service has come to an ignominious end. She should just wish whoever succeeds her good luck, because he or she will definitely need it.

Youths demand gun control

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

HUNDREDS of thousands of youths, their parents, supporters and allies in 800 cities around the world made good their vow to press their demand for gun control on the streets.

 

They urged legislators to ban the assault weapons, end of sale of high-capacity magazines and require background checks on all gun purchases.

 

They criticized the president and lawmakers for bowing to the gun manufacturers and the gun lobby.

 

In San Francisco, Columbine HS shooting survivor Briar Goldberg pressed for tougher gun ownership checks.  

 

Thousands at the Civic Center found support from school safety advocate Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo and foremost NRA opponent Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who became mayor of San Francisco when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk where shot dead by a fellow Supervisor in 1978.  

 

Near and far from the White House and the Capitol, the children's messages reverberated:

 

“Am I next?”

 

 “We are a nation of survivors.”

 

 “Let’s put the USA over the NRA.”

 

“They say I’m a tool of some nameless adult, but that’s not true.”

 

“Bullets do not discriminate, so why should we?”

 

“Arm our teachers with pens and pencils.  Arm our students with education. “

 

“We shouldn’t have to come here to talk to you; you come home and hear from us, your constituents.”

 

“Don’t be afraid just because they have Senator before their name.”

 

“Tell them to listen to you because they work for us.”

 

“We’ve been fighting since Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas.  We will no longer be a statistic.”

 

“It is normal to see candles for brown and black lives lost to gun violence.”

 

“This is how democracy looks like.”

 

“We are all Americans.”

 

“La lucha sigue.” (Ed: The struggle continues.)

 

“We’re going to make this a voting issue, in every county, in every state.”

 

“Register to vote.”

 

“Vote them out.”

 

“Congress, you’re the parents.  Look at us, your children.  We’re the ones fighting to survive.”

 

“I have a dream that enough is enough.  That this should be a gun-free world.  Period.”

 

"This is just the beginning."

 

Highlighting the toll of a few moments in front of an AR15, Gonzalez spoke at the lead rally for 2 minutes then led 4 minutes of silence to reflect on the terror she and her schoolmates endured on Valentine's Day.

 

That was all the time the assailant took before ditching his weapon, walking away and blending with the frantic survivors, she said.  Over an hour would pass before he would be identified and apprehended.

 

By then 17 lives were lost, leaving a nation asking why, sparking the same debate over the Second Amendment, turning children into activists: fearless and focused, astute and determined.

 

 

(Cherie M. Querol Moreno is an award-wining journalist, community educator and volunteer)

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