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Philippine politics at a crossroads

Published in Perry Scope

For the second time since 2001, former president and now speaker of the House of Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo staged a coup d’état.  The first was on January 20, 2001 when then vice president Arroyo took over the presidency after then president Joseph “Erap” Estrada was ousted by the late Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes with the blessing of the Supreme Court. 


Based on a purported letter from Erap seeking a temporary leave of absence --drafted by Erap’s Executive Secretary, the late Ernesto Angara -- the Supreme Court approved the temporary takeover of Arroyo as “Acting President.”  However, when Arroyo took her oath of office before Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., she was sworn in as “President,” not “Acting President” as agreed unanimously by the Supreme Court justices.  Did Davide deliberately omit the word “Acting”?  Your guess is as good as mine.  


Seventeen years after the coup d’état in 2001, the 71-year old Arroyo -- now a congresswoman representing the 2nd district of Pampanga -- staged another coup d’état.  This time she grabbed the Speakership of the House of Representatives from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.  


The story goes that just before the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23, 2018, Arroyo hastily convened a secret meeting of the majority party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas mg Bayan (PDP-Laban).  When Duterte arrived in Congress, Batasan Pambansa, he was surprised, apparently without prior knowledge of the coup.  Some lawmakers said that he was so infuriated with what happened that he threatened to walk out of his own SONA.  If Duterte didn’t indeed have a hand in the coup, does that mean that he’s losing his grip on the House?  If so, who engineered the coup?


Coup mastermind


But just like the coup in 2001, Gloria evidently masterminded the coup.  But Gloria by herself wouldn’t be able to the influence her peers in the House without the support of someone who has power over them.  Gloria reportedly used the rift between Speaker Alvarez and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president’s daughter, to pursue her Machiavellian goal.  It was said that the rift was fueled when Alvarez allegedly called Duterte-Carpio a part of the opposition when she formed a separate regional political party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).  Angered by the accusation, Duterte-Carpio slammed Alvarez and called him an “insecure fat sleaze.”     


Recently, Duterte-Carpio told reporters that HNP was willing to forge alliances with other political parties.  Interestingly, there were talks that some lawmakers from the ruling PDP-Laban were considering jumping ship to Lakas-CMD, which was Arroyo’s political party before she pledged allegiance to PDP-Laban in October 2017.  But here’s the kicker: The word is that Lakas-CMD would merge with Duterte-Carpio’s HNP. 


Could it be that Gloria is rebuilding Lakas-CMD to what it was before: a strong political party during her presidency?  It must be remembered that members of Lakas-CMD migrated to the Liberal Party (LP) in 2010 when Benigno Aquino III took over the presidency.  When Duterte was elected president in 2016, they turned coats and joined Duterte’s PDP-Laban.


Changing political affiliation is a matter of convenience, not for philosophical differences.  Their loyalty is to the candidate, not to their party. They’re known as “balimbings” (turncoats).  To a lot of them, it’s a matter of self-preservation… or survival.  It’s like a musical chair; if you’re not fast enough to switch, you’re out of the game.



With the presidential election still four years away, why is there a stampede to form alliances now?  What comes to mind is the transition period from the current unitary system of government to the proposed federal system of government, which will be submitted to a referendum.  


A few months ago, Duterte appointed a Consultative Committee to draft a new federal constitution.  While it is not yet in final form, it will divide the country into 18 federated regions.  However, the national government, except for some changes, will remain in its present structure, which is somewhat similar to that of the United States.  Region is to the Philippines what State is to the U.S.


The Executive Department will have a president and vice-president elected as a team.  The Legislative Department will retain the current structure with a Senate and House of Representatives.  Senators will be elected per region, two from each region; a throwback to the 1935 Constitution in which 24 senators were elected at large.   


All elected officials will serve for four years with one reelection.  The Judicial Department will consist of four courts: Federal Supreme Court, Federal Constitutional Court, Federal Administrative Court, and Federal Electoral Court.  In addition, each region will have a Regional Supreme Court, Regional Appellate Court, and Regional Trial Courts.  


 If federalism fails to win in the referendum, then it’s back to status quo.  However, if federalism were approved, it would kick in a new “political game.”  It is not surprising then why Gloria wanted the speakership.  With the support of Duterte’s PDP, Gloria’s Lakas-CMD, and all the balimbings who are waiting in the wings ready to jump ship, Gloria could wield immense power, which she could use to further her personal agenda.


Lucky Luciano Syndrome


This brings to mind the question: Can Duterte trust Gloria?  Will Gloria remain loyal to Duterte?  Which reminds me of the legendary Mafia gangster, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano.  Luciano engineered the fall of his first boss, Giuseppe Masseria, and then swore allegiance to his boss’s rival, Salvatore Maranzano.  A few months later, Luciano engineered the fall of Maranzano.  He then convened the heads of the five Mafia families in New York.  He suggested that they form a “national commission” to rule over Mafia business.  The capos agreed and they elected Luciano as the Chairman of the Commission, the capo di tutti capi  (boss of all bosses) or the “Godfather.”  Apparently afflicted with the “Lucky Luciano Syndrome,” one wonders whom would she topple next?


Speculation is rife that Duterte will run for president and pick former senator Bongbong Marcos as his vice-president running mate in 2022 under the new federal constitution.  However, given the close political and personal relationship between Duterte and Gloria, Duterte might decide to partner with Gloria instead.  But knowing what had happened to his good friend Erap, Duterte might want to keep Gloria at a safe distance for his own preservation.  But Gloria has to watch out for Sara.  If Sara could help Gloria get the speakership, she could also topple Gloria from her perch.   


Sara has shown that she can play hardball politics.  She manifested her appetite for power when she formed HNP.  But to what end?  Could HNP be her vehicle to advance her political ambitions?  She could run for Regional Governor of the federated government of her bailiwick in Davao or use it as a springboard to run for a congressional seat in the House of Representatives.  She can then challenge Gloria for the speakership in 2022.  Or she can run for Regional Senator and position herself to become Senate President.  Either way, she would cross the threshold into national politics, which is a totally different ballgame.


Unholy alliance


But what about the Marcoses who have been salivating for a comeback to power?  Would Bongbong settle for Duterte’s vice-president?  But where else would he go? Would he settle for a “second in command” role?  Unless he sets his sights higher, which could put him politically at odds with his older sister Imee, who is presumed to be eyeing the Senate presidency or Speakership. Remember, “Politics is thicker than blood.”  Imee has been preparing to go national since Bongbong lost the vice-presidency to Leni Robredo by a slim margin.  Bongbong filed a protest before the Supreme Court but it could be rendered moot and academic if the new federal constitution were approved.  And that would throw him into oblivion.  Ugh!


Recent reports say that Imee Marcos and Sara Duterte-Carpio have formed an informal alliance or should I say, unholy alliance?  But the question is:  Who between the two of them would take the top billing and who would play second fiddle to the other? This could cause their unholy alliance to fall apart.  Tough question indeed and only time will tell.  


With all these ambitious hard-hitting and headstrong women – Gloria Arroyo, Sara Duterte-Carpio, and Imee Marcos -- positioning themselves in the power game, Philippine politics would never be the same again.  Indeed, Philippine politics is now at a crossroads.



The government people deserve

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

Former dancer and sexy star Margaux Mocha Uson, who has found her way into the graces of President Rodrigo Duterte as Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office after joining the then Davao City mayor in his presidential campaign, is again at the center of a controversy. This time, she posted on social media a video with a friend on their supposed tweak in support of the proposed government shift from unitary presidential system federalism. The video of Mocha, who touts with her 3 million followers on social media, has since gone viral as it showed blogger Drew Olivar, Mocha’s co-host in Good News Game Show, singing and dancing while making alleged vulgar gestures pointed to “pepe” and “dede” to raise awareness about federalism. "Pepe" is a Filipino word for the female reproductive organ while "dede" is a Filipino term for breast. In the same online show, Olivar read a script defining federalism and enumerating the countries that adopted it but some of them are not into federalism.


The song and dance number was roundly criticized by netizens, lawmakers, and even members of the Constitutional Commission which drafted the federal Constitution, particularly San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino for being “inappropriate.” Fr. Aquino said there was no need for “advertisers” of federalism but “mentors, pedagogues, instructors, tutors and lecturers” to explain it. Among the viral video’s critics were Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Panfilo Lacson who said the proposed Charter change to federalism “is just waiting to be cremated” and Rep. Edgar Erice who said Cha-cha is “dead,” thanks to Mocha Uson. One subordinate of Mocha, the chief of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), even went on to say that Mocha should take a leave of absence.


Despite the storm of criticism, Mocha stood her ground pointing out that her video, which she claimed was not official but personal, saying there was not malice in it and, in fact, helped somehow in creating added awareness to the federalism proposal. While Mocha’s boss, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar readily disclaimed Mocha’s video, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Mocha may have had the best intentions but added that federalism should be explained in a more “serious” manner. Nonetheless, he said that although Malacanang did not agree with Mocha’s way, it is taking the controversial dance video on federalism as a challenge to “transform” new interest on federalism into explaining how this proposed system of government will benefit Filipinos.It should be seen as an opportunity to start discussions on the true meaning of this new system of government, he added.


Even President Rodrigo Duterte seemed to have shrugged off the criticisms on the viral video. "The President was very cool about it. He's, first and foremost, a believer in freedom of expression,” Roque said, adding that although federalism has been the talk of the town because of the "unconventional" video, Duterte agreed the information campaign should have a more serious tone. Whether you agree or not, every able Filipino citizen must join in the discussion to shape their own government and their destiny. The people, after all, gets the government that they deserve.

Where does Trump’s loyalty lie?

Published in On Distant Shore

Forgetting to express sympathy for the families of the seven people who have been killed so far and the thousands who have lost their homes and to praise the heroic efforts of some 14,000 firemen fighting wildfires in several areas across California, President Donald Trump would rather blame the state government, quite inexplicably, for its “bad environmental laws” and because, he said, it “diverts” water to the Pacific Ocean.


The President, who describes himself as “stable genius,” couldn’t even offer to explain how the state diverts the water to the Pacific Ocean or how California’s environmental laws, which are considered by experts as some of the most protective in the nation, can be considered “bad.”


One tweeter who immediately responded to Trump’s incredulous tweet had to remind him: “Water running into the Pacific Ocean is called a river.”


With the state suffering from drought for many years now, Sacramento has actually tightened the valve on water use, making sure that the limited supply of water is properly allocated for drinking, agricultural and environment needs and has very little left to drain into the ocean. It is not difficult to understand this when you live in California because most of the rivers in most parts of the state are dry.


Scientists, who are definitely more knowledgeable than the “stable genius” in the White House, agree that the problem is not that the state lacks the water to fight fires, but that years of drought have made forests and brush more flammable.


These scientists, who have been studying the effects of global warming and climate change on the world’s habitats, point to a shift in the jet stream – the river of high wind in the Northern Hemisphere – that is causing the extremely high temperatures in many parts of the world and is hastening the spread of deadly wildfires all over the world.


This phenomenon, a result of global warming, they said, could cause more hot, dry spells more wildfires in the future.


The jet stream shift has resulted in soaring temperatures in the West Coast, where temperatures averaged in the 100s in the past two weeks, and in traditionally cold areas like Scandinavia and Japan. Norway and Sweden, for example, which is close to the cold Arctic region, experienced rare 90 degrees last week, while Japan experienced its highest-ever temperature at 106 degrees. Other places, such as the East Coast, on the other hand, have seen relentless rain, even flooding in the summer months.


“We’re seeing this mix of conditions across North America and Europe, but they’re all connected,” said Jennifer Francis, a professor at Rutgers University who studies atmospheric circulation.


We can blame it all on global warming. Scientists point out that the greenhouse gases emitted from cars, power plants and factories, which trap sunlight and warm the atmosphere, have created conditions that are conducive to wildfire. They also noted that these have resulted in increasing water loss from soil and plants and decreasing snowmelt and river flows.


Researchers have concluded that human-caused warming was drying out forests so much that peak fire seasons across the West have expanded every year by an average of nine days since 2000.


Wildfires have not been exclusive to California and other Western states. In recent years, European countries have also been devastated by deadly wildfires, all because of global warming.


In Europe, where temperatures have reached record or near record highs, drought and wildfires have hit countries from Greece to Sweden. In Greece, 91 persons were killed in wildfires. Portugal, where 114 were killed in two massive forest fires, is still fighting wildfires that have already injured 44 persons and forced evacuation of thousands. Three men have died of heat stroke in Spain, which is also battling two wildfires.


The longest drought in decades have dried out rivers in The Netherlands and Germany, and wheat fields across Europe have been devastated. All these wildfires and drought are happening even as temperatures soar to record highs all over the European continent.


Amid all these frightening developments, Trump has chosen to ignore the warnings of global warming, all because he would rather protect big businesses and industries than the future of the world.


At about this time last year, Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.


The Paris Agreement has been signed by 195 countries, and ironically, the United States, which accounts for about 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions next only to China’s 30 percent, has become only the third nation, after Nicaragua and Syria, to refuse to cooperate with the entire world to save the planet and make it more livable for future generations.


In rejecting the agreement, Trump said it disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.” But economists and political analysts said that leaving the accord will neither bring back jobs nor help the taxpayer, but will instead hurt the United States and the world.


Even during the presidential campaign, Trump had shown antagonism towards environmental protections. He vowed to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal agency tasked with tackling climate change. Upon election, he named as EPA head a former Oklahoma attorney general who worked with the oil industry to oppose Obama era regulations.


Trump then proposed drastic EPA budget cuts and employee buyouts, imposed a social media gag order on the staff, and actually moved to abolish the agency.


Last month, Trump announced plans to revoke the authority granted by the Clean Air Act to California to apply stricter car emission standards and to cut short a plan set by the Obama administration to raise fleet fuel efficiency averages to 50 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025, apparently in support of the lobbying efforts by the US car industry.


In his latest tweet, Trump claims the California wildfires are being magnified, just as he is claiming that the global warming was exaggerated and was just “a Chinese hoax,” a claim echoed by many industries who are the main contributors to global warming in the first place.


Trump’s tweet on the California wildfires is just another proof that this “stable genius” billionaire is not really serious about making America great again, but to make American industries lord it over again at the expense of the American people.


Where really does Trump’s loyalty lie? To the people or to himself and his fellow billionaires?


(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


As Evangelist at the Golden Gate Church of Christ in San Francisco, California and Founder of  FITNESS FOR HUMANITY (aka FITNESS FOR CHRIST), my family and I were blessed to attend the first Filipino Christian Summit in North America which was successfully held last July 20, 21 and 22  at the Camp Tanda ( one of the Christian camps of the churches of Christ) in Big Bear Lake, California.


With the theme “Setting Up Stones of Remembrance,” the first Filipino Christian Summit in North America was attended by Filipino Christians from sister congregations in San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles Area, San Diego Area in California, Arizona, Louisiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and other states) and from sister congregations in Surrey, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada.


The first day of the Filipino Christian Summit started with Praise and Harmony, Welcome Address and Camp Orientation led by Sam Lacuata Eugenio. The first message entitled “Stones of Remembrance was delivered by Bert Tupas, Evangelist of North Metro Church of Christ in Sacramento, California. GASTRONOMICS was hosted by Hsrding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Acquaintance Night, Talent Show and BONFIRE ended the firstt day of the summit.


The second day, Saturday, started with Assembly Singing followed by the second message “The Memorial Stones Remind Us of God's Direction and Guidance” delivered by Jay-ar Villanueva Miclat, Preaching Minister, Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, Ohio. By 10:30 am, yours truly shared special report on the WE CARE Ministries particularly on the “WE CARE” Evangelism Campaign and Workshop in the Philippines in the years 2012, 2014,, 2016, 2017, 2018. Children's Class (ages 3-10) was held separately. Pinoy Games like Patintero, water bucket relay, etc. were coordinated by Sam Eugenio and Henry Bravo.


After lunch, Learning New Songs was led by Sam Eugenio followed by Traditional Filipino Games coordinated by Neiel Mallari, Alvin Tamicala and Henry Bravo. In the evening, Praise and Harmony was led by Neiel Mallari, Song leader from Los Angeles, California. The third message “The Memorial Stones Remind Us God's Power and Provision” was shared by Henry Bravo, Elder, Surrey Church of Christ, Surrey, B.C., Canada. This was followed by Group Singing Competition and VONFIRE.


Special highlight of the second day of summit was the baptism (immersion) of Esperanza “Espie” Riley (for remission of sins, Actsa2:37-38) at the Big Bear Lake after WE CARE Bible Study with Jon Rowe, Minister/Evangelist of the Southwest Church of Christ in Phoenix, Arizona. Espie is a close friend and guest of Alpha de Guzman from Escondido, California.


The third day , Sunday, started with Bible Classes (Sunday School) for all ages. Singing during Worship services was led by Jonathan Hincley. The Lord's Table (Communion) was hosted by Bert Tupas, and assisted by Albert Eugenio and yours truly. The Sunday morning message on “LEGACY” was delivered by Alvin Collado Tanicala from Bakersfield, California. This was followed by Stones Ceremonies and BON VOYAGE


My beloved wife Virginia Jimenez Madliang and I and our daughters Darlene Madlaing Gamble and Wynema Joy Madlaing Gacusan, our grandsons John Michael Gamble, Jeremiah Gacusan, Brendon Gacusan and our son-in-law Ben Gacusan would like to express our profound thanks and appreciation to members of the host committee for the planning and coordination of the successful first Filipino Christian Summit in North America.


The following day after the Filipino Christian Summit, my family and I enjoyed together family bonding and kayaking at Captain John's in Big Bear Lake. Then, we proceeded to Las Vegas and stayed at Worldmark Resort and watched Nathan Burton Comedy Magic Show. Our grandson Brendon was selected by Nathan Burton to participate in the show. The following morning, we joined a guided tour to the Upper Antelope Grand Canyon in Page, Arizona.


The best part of our family bonding and vacation happened on July 28 when I had the opportunity to share the gospel to our grandson Jeremiah through WE CARE Bible Study. After the WE CARE Bible Study,, Jeremiah decided to obey the gospel in baptism (immersion) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). On that memorable Saturday morning, I baptized (immersed) Jeremiah in their backyard swimming pool in Glendale, California. Angels in heaven were rejoicing with us!


In the afternoon, my wife and I and the entire family members went to the Feed My Starving Children Center in Mesa, Arizona and helped packed food packages for the starving children in third world countries like Tahiti, Nicaragua in Latin America, Philippines in Asia, Guyana and other countries in Africa.


(ART GABOT MADLAING is commissioned Notary Public and licensed Real Estate Broker (BRE#00635976) in California since 1981. He is accredited Notary Public by the Philippine Consul General in San Francisco. .Art is the Founder of FITNESS FOR HUMANITY (aka FITNESS FOR CHRIST) and ACAPINOY. He is active Evangelist with the GOLDEN GATE CHURCH OF CHRIST in San Francisco, California.)


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