Tiktokers for #MamaLeni

All of a sudden, social media was awashed with tiktok videos extolling the virtues of Leni Robredo!

It was as if these young content creators who have gained wide viewership with short clips that are funny found the holy grail for their genre.

By its nature, Tiktok videos are incongruent with politics. It’s like mixing oil and water.

But in their desperation, the PR handlers of Robredo offered these kids — yes literally kids as in minors — oodles of money to create Tiktok videos about her and boost her poor image with less than 10 months before the elections.

Well, this PR effort fell on its face almost as soon as it began.

With the deluge of Leni Tiktok videos, it became apparent that this was a giant attempt to keep the vice president’s hopes for a Malacanang bid in the 2022 elections alive.

There wasn’t even a smooth transition to disguise the marketing campaign. What they could have done was begin with just one, then two, then three Tiktok creators to make it appear like it was an idea that caught fire. That it was organized, with plenty of money, wasn’t hard to unravel.

Worse, one young Tiktoker came out on Facebook to squeal on the offer made to him to join the “bandwagon” — a P15,000 fee to put Robredo into his content. “My politics is not for sale,” he said.

It’s funny how the dilawans accuse pro-Duterte supporters as state-funded trolls, and then be exposed as putting into motion a glaring troll farm, recruiting many minors in the process and corrupting their minds with instant cash. Hasn’t it occured to them that this is detestable? More odd is the fact that mainstream media has kept quiet about a program to corrupt young minds for dilawan politics!

Troll farms

By last count, 13 senators have signed the resolution calling for yet another investigation into allegations that public funds are being used for the operation of “troll farms” that purportedly manufacturers an endless stream of fake news to prop the image of the Duterte administration and bash its political opponents.

With elections just beyond the horizon — nine months and a few days — this initiative led by LIberal Party senators apparently wants to disable any such capability to influence the public mind on issues. It is fueled by the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showing incumbent senators at the bottom of the heap facing a real threat of being wiped out of the upper house.

These senators are barking at the wrong tree. “Troll farms” are supposed to manufacture fake news and flood the social media streams to control the flow of public thought. But looking at what is happening in the country and its state of affairs, there is no need for troll farms, and fake news, because good news is flowing with abundance on a daily basis. And the good news is propagated by real Filipinos who want to defend the Duterte administration against the daily slew of disinformation and fake news from the opposite side of the fence.

There are trolls and there are trolls on both sides of the fence. Is there government funding for the pro-Duterte trolls? Maybe. But I don’t think it can be established unless the Senate employs high-tech forensics experts to trace the URLs of known troll accounts. Do these senators think any of the computers used for such a propaganda operation could be traced to Malacanang? I doubt it. Why work from a place that would compromise the operation?

These senators have short memories. About a decade ago, a controversy erupted over the discovery that the office of then Palace communications guru Ricky Carandang was engaged in “social media” propaganda. Carandang purchased expensive Apple Macbooks and Blackberrys for his staff to ensure a steady flow of propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. IG wasn’t born yet, and YouTube not as popular as it is now.

Now that was a real state-funded troll farm. If it’s just putting out press releases and feed to mainstream media, two or three good writers would have sufficed. There really wasn’t that much news emanating from Malacanang anyway. Carandang’s use of social media was pioneering in government propaganda. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t last long in the job. So many controversies enveloped him because of his arrogance, and he was ultimately shown the exit door.

As I mentioned in my YouTube livestream, it is the oligarchy-backed opposition that has a massive infrastructure for fake news. It might not fit into the description of troll farms, but the objective is no different — to misinform and mislead. Mainstream media and celebrities are at the forefront of this high-end troll farm, especially ABS-CBN.

Lest we forget, ABS-CBN, with the guidance of Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, engineered the fake ambush on Miss Kim Chiu on March 4, 2020. With the lights on its franchise dimming, ABS-CBN was scrambling for ideas on how to destabilize the Duterte administration and force his ejection from office. The effort was a flop. And I exposed the fakery of the entire operation.

Numbers crunching time for Leni Robredo

Business executives call it “numbers crunching”.

It’s a time for them to review their balance sheets and make decisions about next courses of action. In business, it’s always about making profits.

Politicians also do numbers crunching – scrutinizing poll surveys and analyzing what is going well and what is not. For politicians with intentions on running in the May 9, 2022 elections, the last six months are likely to have been spent doing just that — crunching numbers. There is a science in poll surveys that cannot be taken lightly, and these periodic samplings of the voters’ pulse have become a reliable gauge to guide campaign strategies. The poll surveys can also be a guide on whether to run or not.

This is now the difficult task for Vice President Leni Robredo.

Her numbers have been consistently low for the last five years. It’s a reason for worry because her images have been literally plastered all over mainstream media, and so much airtime have been alloted for interviews for the mileage every politician covets. That has been reinforced by a social media program on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Such exposure is more than enough to put Robredo among the frontrunners at this time.

It’s clear her marketing strategy and tactics have nothing to show as results. It is becoming clear those relentless efforts at winning the hearts and minds of Filipino voters have failed. Her last poll survey rating of 6% in distant sixth place is discouraging.

In an interview with Christian Esguerra on ANC’s “After the Fact” on Tuesday night, Ms. Robredo had to admit this is what is making it hard for her to decide on whether to run or not. She cannot hope to accomplish a repeat performance of her 2016 vice presidential bid where she started off at 1% one year before the elections. At the time, she was unknown, and only her brand as the widow of the late Jesse Robredo gave her the slightest name recognition.

The political landscape is vastly different, Ms. Robredo confessed.

In 2016, she was running only for Vice President. She belonged to an administration party that controlled vast resources, not to mention the overflowing campaign kitty raised from the Disbursement Acceleration Program with the help of Janet Lim Napoles. The political machinery down to the barangay level was colossal. And there was the magic carpet she was made to ride by Andy Bautista to propel her past Bongbong Marcos — Smartmatic.

Today, the Liberal Party is in shambles. Even the incumbent Senators eligible to run again are almost certain to lose in next year’s elections. Janet Lim Napoles is now in prison. And the death of its leader, former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, last month didn’t lift the image of the dilawan political brand as many followers had hoped. Its last standard bearer, Mar Roxas, has hung up his gloves. He is now busy playing with his kids, obviously trying to overcome depression. Roxas is dejected about being rejected thrice

And the bottomline, now virtually alone to face the battle, Ms. Robredo doesn’t have the money to mount a nationwide campaign. There is nothing in the horizon that can serve as a beacon of hope.

These are factors that are swirling in Ms. Robredo’s mind now as we approach the period for filing of certificates of candidacy on October 1-8. That’s only two and a half months away. If this were a game of chess, Ms. Robredo has only a minute left on her clock with a most disadvantageous position.

Defeat is certain if she runs; her pride would be wounded severely if she backs out of the game.

My unsolicited advice is that she should withdraw from the race right away. It would be unfair for the opposition to be kept waiting. Only a miracle can change the equation. Maybe she is still hopeful President Duterte will be forced out of office, or even die, to pave the way for succession.

But that is not going to change the outcome at the polls, because the Fiilipino people will get angrier if her wish is granted. It will be a political tsunami that will sweep her in defeat in the unlikely event that happens.

Fake news on GMA 7’s “poop” by China vessels traced to dilawans

I’ve said it time and again, and I’ll say it again.

In this day and age, fake news are easy to track down and expose.

That already happened with the dishonesty shown by Simularity, Inc. and GMA 7 in using a photograph of a dredging vessel causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia way back in October 2014 and make it seem like an actual image of a Chinese vessel spewing human waste into the West Philippine Sea.

Now, the venerated columnist Bobi Tiglao has done it again: he exposed Simularity as a propaganda front of the dilawans to spread lies against China. And Tiglao raises the question about whether or not the U.S. State Department, or the CIA, could have put up the $1 million that the brother of a former Aquino government cabinet member infused into what was moribund company on July 17, 2018. That’s just three years ago.

Simularity washed its hands from any culpability in using that damning photograph from “The Daily Mail”. It blamed GMA 7 for failure to double-check its attribution in fine print that the ship was unknown with its source indicated underneath. Was GMA alone in this apparent act of spreading fake news?

Hell, no.

There was malice in Simularity’s use of that photograph. The intent to raise a furor by showing a picture of a ship with murky water in its wake was palpable. There was nothing in the caption that would warn the reader that the vessel wasn’t Chinese, and that it wasn’t in the act of dumping human waste as an accompanying illustration to the article. And that certainly accomplished its purpose: it raised hell among Senators who fell for the fake news.

It’s sad because GMA 7 merely removed the offending picture without offering an apology. Simularity said it had asked “the irresponsible news organization” to publish a retraction. GMA 7 pretended as if nothing happened. That is cowardice.

That embarassing episode is now aggravated by what Tiglao has unearthed.

In his column appearing in The Manila Times today, Tiglao discovered that Simularity was a mediocre technology company founded in Delaware, U.S.A. in 2011. Its business was providing clients with data on “changes on the earth surface” using images downloaded from a satellite of the European Space Agency.

But as the website of ESA would show, its powerful satellites are used to monitor “gradual changes” in the earth’s surface such as the gradual clearing of rainforests, the annual rise in global sea level, and an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires.

With this in mind, the question begs to be asked: how can Simularity monitor the build-up of human waste in the open sea when any discharge is carried away by strong currents? It’s not as if the “poop” discharge is weighed down by an anchor so that it stays in place for generations to come, such that its accumulation can be detected from space.

Liz Derr is guilty of exagerrating her report when she said there are now two man-made things visible from space — the Great Wall of China and the “poop” concentrations in the Spratlys. “When ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” she said.

That is plain stupidity. Even an elementary school pupil understands that in open sea, nothing remains stationary. Certainly, human waste piling up in that part of the world is impossible. It’s not an earth-surface latrine where the poop stays in the dug-out for a long period of time. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

But there’s more to it.

Tiglao found out that Peter Abaya, brother of former DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya, invested $1 million in the company on July 17, 2018 through his company, Shatter Tech Venture Holdings.

What was it about Simularity that attracted Abaya’s brother to pour a cool million dollars in that company? And why did Simularity quickly change its packaging to become a technology-company keeping a tight watch over what was happening in the West Philippine Sea? And how did Simularity’s so-called “poop report” draw the attention of Philippine media to warrant an on-line interview with Derr?

If you ask me, Simularity was set-up as a propaganda vehicle for the oligarchs who have set their eyes on the gas and oil underneath the West Philippine Sea. It’s not hard to see the connection.

Nokia, the Liberal Party and why Leni Robredo is destined to lose

Not too long ago, Nokia was the giant in the telecommunications industry. Almost everyone owned a Nokia, although there were other brands in the market (Alcatel, Sony Ericsson and Motorola among others). Before that, Motorola was the king in the market. But where are these brands now? Almost gone to oblivion.

The market is now dominated by Apple, Samsung and Huawei. With rapid advances in technology, these companies introduce upgraded models to give consumers more choices and better capabilites. The first smart phones were packed by more computing power than the massive main-frame computers packed into buildings for the Apollo missions that ultimately took man to the moon. In a span of one decade, that power tripled and quadrupled and more.

Twenty-five years ago, nobody could have foreseen that the Nokia 3300 hand-held phone was a dinosaur of a gadget for a brand that almost vanished entirely from the face of the earth. Nokia is still around, but its efforts to regain its foothold in the market have accomplished so little. The Finnish company became so comfortable in its position as market leader it ignored warning signals that the telecommunications industry was about to experience tectonic shifts.

In politics, the fate of Nokia is the same thing that has befallen to the Liberal Party, the once great political party that produced Presidents, Senators and Congressmen over 75 years ago. It reached its peak when the late Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III was propelled to the highest post of the land in the 2010 elections, with much help from the emotional outpouring of Filipinos upon the death of his mother, the late Corazon C. Aquino.

As the party in power in 2010, the Liberal Party had everything a political power could possibly desire. The yellow ribbon became a national icon which became popular as windshield and bumper stickers. Dilawan was a label worn with pride. It looked like the victory of Aquino was the start of a long era of rule for the LP, with Mar Roxas getting ready to succeed his political and personal friend by 2016.

But the arrogance of power corrupted the Liberal Party. It became consumed by desire to perpetuate itself in power. How else to better accomplish that than corrupting the democratic institutions to remove any and all obstacles to feed that hunger. Thus was born the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a thinly disguised scheme to destroy the enemies of the Liberal Party and reward its allies with pieces of silver, so to speak. Stealing from the public treasury was given legitimacy, albeit for a short period of time only.

As this was happening, Mr. Aquino’s weaknesses as a leader unravelled one after another. It started with the Luneta hostage incident that resulted in the death of eight tourists as well as the disgrunted policeman who had hijacked their chartered bus. Poor judgment and inability to put the right people for a tough job began to emerge as the trademark of the Aquino administration. The problems started to pile up: the MRT and LRT frequently broke down because of mismanagement and corruption, the illegal drugs situation worsened, Yolanda relief and rehabilitation was bungled, the infamous Mamasapano massacre that took the lives of 44 SAF troopers, and Dengvaxia, just to name a few.

Against this backdrop of corruption and incompetence, the nation saw an ambitious Mar Roxas showing insensitivity to what was happening and just keep his eyes on the Presidency in 2016.

Essentially, like Nokia, the Liberal Party forgot to look at the rapidly changing environment and adapt to the people’s needs and wants. The people were disillusioned, and yet, LP ignored the writing on the wall. LP believed nothing could stop its goal of becoming the party in power for decades to come because of the overflowing campaign warchest it had amassed from Janet Lim Napoles and the DAP. It believed its own propaganda that yellow symbolized clean and honest government, when the exact opposite was being exposed.

Illegal drugs and criminality made the Philippines a dangerous place in the minds and hearts of most Filipinos. The people saw through the propaganda and understood drug lords were becoming the power elite that funded politicians like Leila de Lima. If the Aquino government didn’t want to take action, then the people took matters into their own hands. Their weapon: the ballot.

Somehow, that lesson didn’t sink into the minds of the Liberal Party. Its leaders still held on to the notion that the color yellow was an effective marketing tool for their brand of governance. In 2019, the party managed to field only eight candidates. Towards the end of the campaign, Roxas detached himself from the LP line-up and declared he was an independent candidate. He realized, too late, that the “dilawan” label was a ticket to defeat. Roxas suffered the worst fate a politician can experience — losing as Vice President, President and Senator.

Roxas predicted correctly that the Otso Deretso was headed for disaster; he failed to bail out before their plane plummeted to the sea of political doom.

The Liberal Party became the Nokia of politics. Once dominant, now a symbol for dinosaur politics. Not even the death of their leader, Noynoy Aquino, breathed new life into the party as what many of them had hoped.

The handlers of Vice President Leni Robredo refused to heed the lessons of the last two elections. Political scientist Dr. Julio Teehankee had warning the other month that the “dilawans” needed to change their narrative in order to regain bouyancy in the turbulent seas of politics. Teehankee pointedly told the dilawans their usual “Duterte is bad” messaging wasn’t working. The dilawans needed to demonstrate what they could do differently and persuade Filipinos voters to give them a second chance. His advice fell on deaf ears.

With less than 10 months to go before election day, the challenge confronting the Liberal Party and their allies is like raising Lazarus from the dead. The poll surveys have been consistent: Robredo struggled to keep her head above water in rough seas. Her last poll showed a slight slip from 8 to 6 percent. It was funny how her spokesman, Atty. Barry Gutierrez could even describe that as “respectable”.

Robredo should get out of the game while there is time. To run and lose is to validate what most Filipinos have long believed — she had won the vice presidency through cheating.

The sweetheart deal that turned sour

Seven years have gone by since I exposed the anomalies in the Iloilo Convention Center, and despite efforts of Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon to bury the issues, the truth simply cannot stay hidden. It must be told, and retold, and retold. Drilon has used everything in his power to destroy my credibility and keep his corruption below the radar screen of the Duterte administration. And he wants me to go to jail for daring expose the ugly truth about his projects, especially the Iloilo Convention Center.

The time is ripe to bring back the issues to the center stage. Drilon has been attacking the Duterte administration for “planned plunder” in the procurement of vital equipment and supplies to combat the Covid 19 pandemic since last year. The allegations are shallow, bereft of evidence and anchored only on a desire to demolish the image of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Drilon is a great pretender. He talks as if his own record is spotlessly clean. In truth, his corruption is beyond compare.

Without a doubt, the ICC project is the single biggest act of plunder committed by the Aquino administration. It was funded from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which was the brainchild of Drilon and then Budget Secretary Butch Abad. In fairness to the late President Aquino, he didn’t know Drilon and Abad were taking advantage of his feeble mind which was incapable of comprehending the gargantuan scheme to rape and plunder the national treasury.

The corruption in the ICC took place in stages. At each stage, numerous violations of the law were committed. Such was the rapacity of Drilon that he wasn’t satisfied with cheating the Filipino people only once, but at least four times. Each segment is enough to send him to eternity in jail.

Let me unravel these anomalies one by one.

The Sweetheart Deal With Megaworld

As the chief architect of the DAP, Drilon suddenly had a bottomless ATM machine from which to draw public funds. The DAP was already being challenged before the Supreme Court, and Drilon found himself in a race to look for projects into which to funnel money, with an eye to raking in tons and tons in kickbacks.

He had started with the Benigno Aquino, Jr. Avenue (known locally as the “Diversion Road”) and the Esplanade into which he earmarked more than a billion pesos. DAP virtually gave him a blank check; he had the power to allocate fabulous amounts of money for pet projects.

His search for more projects took him to the area of tourism. Local officials suggested the construction of a convention center. As it turned out, the Megaworld Corporation was developing the Iloilo Business Park out of the 72 hectares of land that used to be the Iloilo Airport. With the transfer of the airport to its present site in Cabatuan, Iloilo, the government put the property up for sale through public bidding. Megaworld won it with a bid of P1.2 billion.

Drilon saw that part of the development were two five-star hotels along the main avenue. Between these hotels that were under construction was a 1.7-hectare property that was clearly earmarked as site for a convention center. Megaworld’s timetable had put the convention center’s construction on the backburner; it wanted to develop the market for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

A lightbulb popped inside Drilon’s head: Why not get Megaworld to put the convention center to the front of its timetable? It would definitely look good for Iloilo to have its own convention center. It would complement the massive infrastructure building program that was underway to transform the landscape of Iloilo City. It would give Drilon the show window he needed to project his image.

Not too many people knew that Drilon had ambitions to become President. In fact, the DAP was his slush fund to build a campaign warchest for a future presidential bid. And the development of Iloilo City was to be his propaganda vehicle as a man of vision and action.

With this in mind, Drilon approached Andrew Tan, chief executive officer of Megaworld, and laid down a proposal that was too good to turn down.

Iloilo needed a convention center, Drilon told Tan. The government is willing to bankroll its construction on that 1.7-hectare lot between Richmonde Hotel and Courtyard by Marriott. But the law requires that any infrastructure project on which public funds can be spent need to be owned by the government. Would Megaworld be willing to donate that property? Before Tan could blink, Drilon followed up with a sweetener: Once the ICC is completed in accordance with Megaworld’s own architectural design, the facility would be given back to the developer as operator under a lease agreement. Megaworld was going to have its cake and eat it, too.

Deed of Donation

At once, Megaworld got its architect, W. Coscolluela and Associates, to prepare the plans for the facility. This world-famous architectural firm made a rough estimate of P200 million as the funding requirement for the ICC construction and site development. This figure was incorporated in the Deed of Donation as one of the obligations imposed on the Department of Tourism as donee — earmark P200 million to finance the project. In addition to clearly stating the financial requirement for the project, the Deed of Donation also provided for the engagement of a private company to operate and manage the ICC. This was supposed to be the icing on the cake.

The Deed of Donation was signed on November 13, 2012 in what was hailed as a historic public-private partnership to push the economic growth of Iloilo City.

Unknown to Megaworld, the ICC was just a legal cover for the rechanneling of public funds into private pockets. By itself, the donation was littered with violations of law. Among these are:

  • The donation violated RA 8974 (for acquisition of right-of-way from private owners or donation of real estate as site for government projects). This law states that the donation must be simple and unconditional. The late Ramon Jimenez, as Secretary of Tourism at the time, usurped his authority. The deed of donation was null and void.
  • The conditions that were contained in the Deed of Donation were the following:
    • That the government allocate a specific amount of money (200 million pesos) to finance the construction of the convention center;
    • That the government adopt the architectural design of Megaworld’s architect for the convention center to conform to the over-all development plans of the Iloilo Business Park; and
    • That the government, upon completion of the project, would turn over its operation and management to a private company under a Lease-Operate-Manage (LOM) contract.
  • A careful examination of the deed of donation would reveal that the undertaking was a joint venture between DOT and Megaworld. NEDA guidelines require joint ventures to undergo a competitive process in the selection of the private sector partner. Before the government can allocate funds for such undertaking, the project proposal must undergo scrutiny by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). Short-cuts that are fatal to the whole project were taken because Drilon was in such a hurry. This violated Executive Order No. 230, series of 1987.

Unwarranted benefit or undue advantage in violation of RA 3019

In this donation stage of the ICC, Drilon and the public officials who were involved are liable for violation of RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, particularly Section 3 (e) for giving unwarranted benefits or advantage to Megaworld. Without a doubt, the construction of a convention center to be situated between its two hotels was in the over-all development plan of Megaworld. The very configuration of the lot makes it obvious. Hence, by allocating public funds for the construction of the ICC, Drilon and his cohorts gave Megaworld’s business as property developer an unfair benefit or advantage.

Conversely, this act also caused undue injury to the government which is punished in the same section of the anti-graft law because it was done in blatant violation of the law

How the cake turned sour

Fast forward to 2014. Even before the construction of the ICC was finished, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), an attached agency of the DOT, advertised its search of a private sector partner to operate and manage the facility as set forth in the Deed of Donation. The “competitive selection process” was just a cover. While there was a public bidding, only Megaworld took part. Naturally, TIEZA issued a Notice of Award on the PhilGEPS website on May 5, 2014.

But strangely, the transaction wasn’t consummated. Megaworld backed out of the deal even if it was handed over on a silver platter. The reason? The project was grossly overpriced. By then the total expenditures had reached P750 million, way above the P200 million specified in the Deed of Donation.

The question needs to be asked: Why did Megaworld specify the amount of P200 million?

First, it knew that it was the amount necessary to undertake the construction and complete the project in accordance with the plans and specifications of W. Coscolluela and Associates.

Second, Megaworld was fully aware that a lease contract for the operation and management of the ICC would have the recovery of the asset valuation as basis for the computation of rental. In the private sector, the capital investment must be fully recovered within 5 to 7 years. As a property developer, Megaworld need to set a cap to what the government needs to spend on the project for its own protection.

Unfortunately, the greed of Drilon put Megaworld’s business interests into the garbage bin. Apparently, he didn’t care about the feasibility aspect of the project from the viewpoint of Megaworld. His objective was to use the ICC as a funnel to divert public funds. This put Megaworld in a losing situation. It gave up a property worth P510 million in the mistaken belief it would eventually be handed back on a silver platter with a convention center. Now, it held an empty piece of paper.

For Megaworld to proceed with the management contract would only aggravate its losses. It would bleed dry in having to pay for the overprice as contained in the computation of the rental payments. At P750 million, computed over a 10-year recovery period, Megaworld would need to pay TIEZA a minimum of P75 million a year! At best, rental income for the first 10 years would range between P10 to 12 million A YEAR. Andrew Tan wasn’t stupid. He’d rather not have his own convention center rather than suffer from financial hemorrhage.

As a result, TIEZA was also stuck with an ICC that nobody wanted to operate and manage under such horrendous financial terms and conditions for the rental. Between 2015 and 2016, TIEZA conducted three to four public biddings in search of a private sector operator, to no avail. It tried to revise the terms of reference to ease the financial burden. Nothing worked.

(To be continued)

Old tricks in propaganda

Politicians rely on propaganda to build on their image and use it as vehicle in seeking their fortunes. No, propaganda isn’t necessarily bad. It has its good uses. But in politics, the examples on how it is used in a bad way are abundant. These propaganda efforts are so blatantly false that one easily unmasks the truth. It exposes the superficial knowledge of these people in the art of political propaganda. They are crudely done, with almost no effort to disguise the true nature of their message. The method is an insult to the intelligence of Filipinos.

Because of this, the propaganda becomes ineffective, a waste of time and money. It is offensive to the sensibilities of audiences. Of course, it will appeal to supporters of these politicians. The purpose of the propaganda, however, is undermined.

These thoughts come to mind as I watched and listened to the barrage of propaganda aired over radio, television and social media for Leni Robredo and Isko Moreno. As a veteran journalist, I don’t see any of their messaging accomplish the desired goals: to enhance the image of their candidates.

For instance, Isko Moreno’s “hospitalization” for Covid 19 was more comedy than news. Leni Robredo’s chant-like recitation of her name — obviously a desperate attempt to drill her name into the minds of the public — will not lift her an inch higher than her poll numbers have shown during the last five years.

One might ask: what was the purpose of this media blitz during the last two weeks? Well, Isko and Leni want to bolster their name recall so that when the next poll survey expected to be undertaken this week, their numbers will have improved. I am almost certain the big pollsters will come out with a final poll survey before the period for filing of the certificates of candidacy on October 1-8, 2021.

Shameful hypocrisy

I can’t help it. I feel like puking each time I see the face of Vice President Leni Robredo. The sensation has been there a long time now. But as each day passes by, the intensity grows. The hypocrisy of this woman is unbearable. When she appears in a video, the lack of sincerity leaps out at a viewer. It’s almost like being assaulted by a strong gust of wind carrying the most awful smells.

Shameful. That’s how I describe it. Her hypocrisy is shameful. Worse, she doesn’t seem to feel it at all. Being shameful is already part of her character.

This is easy to see in her behavior the last two weeks. After her secret meetings with Senator Ping Lacson became public, Leni retreated and called for a ceasefire in the political conversation. She wanted to focus on the pandemic response activities of her office, she said. Her tone made it look that engaging in political discussions was sacrilege. Leni was a political saint, her propaganda tried to show, who backed away from the loud conversations about the 2022 elections.

But beneath the camouflage of doing pandemic response work, Leni was busy preparing a propaganda offensive that seeks to raise her poll survey numbers in time for the filing of the certificates of candidacy in the first week of October. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is what best describes her. The meekness was deceptive: a few days later, endless propaganda materials began airing on mainstream media — radio and television — as well as the social media platforms. She even launched a podcast.

And all the time, Leni has been coy about her political plans. Politics was the last thing in her mind, she kept saying over and over again. When it came to politics, her goal was to bring everybody on the opposite side of the political fence under one roof and put up a single candidate to run against the anointed one for the Duterte administration.

No, she wasn’t seeking to help build consensus on who among those interested can give the best fight: her selfish agenda became apparent when she endeavored to persuade Senator Lacson and Senator Gordon to shelve their own ambitions in her favor. Shameful. Selfish. After five years, her poll numbers have consistently put her in the bottom rung. Between her and Davao City mayor Sara Duterte, there are five more probable candidates — Bongbong Marcos, Isko Moreno, Grace Poe and Manny Pacquiao.

The right thing for her to do is withdraw her name from the list of contenders. She needs to acknowledge she can’t possibly win. If her motives are right, she should push for a consensus on who among those ahead of her must be pushed as common candidate. Leni’s greed and ambition are unfathomable. Sadly, the sacrifice made by her husband will go to naught. She will go down in history as the woman who thought allowing her husband to be murdered in exchange for her ambition will ultimately plummet to hell.

The problem named Leni Robredo

The problem with Vice President Leni Robredo is she thinks she can fool the people, all the time.

A little over a week ago, Mrs. Robredo issued a call for a time-out from politics. The nation needs to focus on the Covid 19 pandemic, she said. But that lie was quickly exposed after she started an aggressive multi-platform propaganda campaign, costing millions of pesos every day, in an apparent effort to gain traction and improve her poll survey numbers. Her radio and television commercials are flooding the airwaves; maybe she believes this media offensive will bolster her image and put her with striking distance of the leaders among probable candidates for the Presidency.

As if that was not enough, Mrs. Robredo launched her podcast on Spotify last Monday. She is leaving no stone unturned to make herself more palatable to voters, especially among millennials. Podcasting is popular among the younger generation, but for topics that they share an interest with. Unfortunately, only a small segment of the population depend on podcasts for their political diet.

If Mrs. Robredo thinks this will be a game-changer, she’s wrong.

How can she make herself appealing to the younger generation when she didn’t even create a ripple with her non-stop social media marketing campaign?

As a political product, Mrs. Robredo suffers from factory defects. The most glaring is that audiences quickly detect a lack of authenticity — insincerity oozes out of her — when she speaks. I have commented in the past that Mrs. Robredo’s face is like rubber used to make giant tires for 10-wheeler trucks. Her facial expressions betray her lack of empathy for her audiences, which has dwindled steadily over the years.

It’s not about the platform, Mrs. Robredo. The problem is you.

Mayor Rody accepts call for him to run as Vice President

No other President in our history has achieved what Mayor Rody Duterte has done: enjoy the extremely high trust and popularity ratings with just 10 months left in his administration. In the past, Presidents usually experienced a sharp decline in their poll ratings upon reaching the halfway point. President Erap didn’t even get to the finish line. But Duterte? He is now headed for a spectacular finish for his six-year term despite being bombarded by criticism non-stop, with destabilization plots coming out of the shadows again and again. Mayor Rody remains unscathed. His mass base support is rock solid.

His political success will be a model for future leaders of the country. Mayor Rody isn’t cut from the typical mold of politicians. He minces no words when he talks, to the point of being uncouth. As city mayor of Davao, he governed with an iron fist, and it’s no secret a long list of dead drug pushers and criminals have piled up in more than two decades as local chief executive. He brought that same brand of governance to his job as President of the Republic, especially in the war against illegal drugs.

True, he wasn’t able to stamp out illegal drugs and corruption in the five years now that he’s been in office. But we have to keep in mind it took him more than a decade as Davao City mayor to establish the peace and quiet Filipinos have come to admire about his home city. Corruption is so deep rooted in the national government, and powerful interests are at play: the oligarchs, traditional politicians and ranking police and military officials. It’s because of corruption that our problem with illegal drugs persists.

Hence, Filipinos understand that six years is not enough for Mayor Rody to accomplish what he had set out to do. Much has been accomplished in five years, but much remains to be done. The momentum is on his side. With a Constitutional prohibition against re-election, the best way for Mayor Rody to fulfill that mission is bow to the popular public demand for continuity. He can do that by running as Vice President.

Senator Grace Poe: stupid is the name

In yesterday’s Blue Ribbon committee hearing into the COA audit report into “deficiencies” in the Department of Health’s liquidation of the P67.3 billion COVID 19 fund released to the agency, she posed the question: “shouldn’t the Ombudsman suspend Secretary Duque by now?”

My outright response to her: Madam Senator, you are stupid.

The Ombudsman does not suspend Cabinet members. That would be a direct insult to the President. You forget that Cabinet members are alter egos of the President. They can be investigated by the Ombudsman administratively and criminally for offenses directly attributable or committed by them. But to suspend them for lapses or even violations committed by subordinates in an agency is downright stupid and ridiculous.

If your argument is given weight, then Cabinet members will constantly face such hazard for offenses committed by subordinate officials. No Cabinet member can function for fear that he or she will be held culpable for offenses not his or her own.

This statement stretches the principle of command responsibility too far.

That cannot find any precedent or basis in fact or law. If such stupidity becomes the norm, the Executive will be crippled by fear.

Stick to your job as Senator.

Fake diploma: The scandal that will put the PH educational system in jeopardy

Now it can be told without fear of contradiction — the Bachelor’s degree awarded by the University of Makati to Senator Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao in December 2019 is bogus. Fake. A mere piece of paper.

A real diploma serves as a seal of competence and learning that its bearer may show the world that he or she has completed the required program of study for any field. With it, its bearer wouldn’t need to demonstrate his or her proficiency in every subject in the four-year course when applying for a job. The diploma is a guarantee from the college or university.

But this is not what Pacquiao received in the graduation rites at the UMak just over a year and a half ago. That’s because under the law, a college degree can only be conferred to a graduate with prior approval from the Commission on Higher Education. This approval is contained in the Special Order that is issued by CHED at least one month before a college student graduates. Without it, no college or university can confer a degree to anybody, not even if he is a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines.

After two months of patient investigation, I have received an official statement from CHED NCR Regional Director Dr. Virginia Akiate that UMak conferred that “degree” of Bachelor of Science in Political Sciene without the knowledge and authority of the agency. And despite proddings from Dr. Akiate, the UMak administration has failed to answer the questions now swirling over this spurious degree. It’s a clear manifestation that UMak cannot justify its action, which can lead to administrative sanctions from CHED.

It is unfortunate that UMak lent its name to the fraud perpetuated by Pacquiao to “cure” a vacuum in his curriculum vitae that he knows will put his qualification to run as President of the Republic under a big question mark. Pacquiao had become a millionaire from his boxing more than two decades ago. Had he really wanted to earn a degree to make up for what he failed to do in his teen-aged years, he could have invested the time and effort as he started to climb the ladder of success in boxing. Studying part-time is a common path taken by young men and women who didn’t finish college due to financial constraints. While working to earn a living, they study at night. And we’ve seen success stories: janitors or security guards who studied law and passed the bar, among others.

But Pacquiao never valued education. His passion was boxing, and he figured he didn’t need a degree to become a champion. Even if he didn’t go to school, he could have gone ahead to educate himself through reading, or even watching YouTube videos on almost any subject under the sun. Indeed, one doesn’t need to go to college to get an education. With his money, he could have built a library for himself and his children where he could sit during his breaks from training to burrow his head into the pages of books.

Apparently, Pacquiao started to entertain the idea that he could run for the President, and even win because of his popularity. It was then that he realized the lack of education was a serious handicap. He had to do something about it, fast.

Former Vice President Jojo Binay and his family provided him with a solution. Enrol at UMak. Without having to study, Pacquiao was going to get a degree for a four-year course. His brain didn’t have for a single minute have to labor. He had his lawyers answer exams and submit the documentary requirements such as reports and thesis writing. Lo and behold, in a matter of months, Pacquiao was a graduate.

However, that lie wasn’t going to stay hidden for long.

As an investigative journalist, I knew the answer lay in the hands of CHED. So I wrote CHED several times. I also tried asking UMak to provide information and documents. After two months, I hit the jackpot. Regional Director Akiate informed me that CHED did not give its imprimatur to that degree. No special order as required by the law. In short, fake.

This is a big scandal that could adversely affect the country’s tertiary education system. For years, we have endeavored to maintain strict standards in our tertiary education not only to provide graduates with solid grounding in their chosen fields, but also ensure that credentials from our colleges and universities are accepted without question by employers, both here and abroad. In the past, the proliferation of “diploma mills” put into serious doubt the quality of our graduates, putting the investment of time and money made by parents to waste.

All of a sudden, this dark past is being resuscitated by this scandal of Pacquiao being conferred a Bachelor’s degree without the sanction of CHED. This is an act of dishonesty committed by UMak and Pacquiao. It is a blatant attempt to mislead the Filipino people into believing is “educated”, and therefor fit to run for President.

Vloggers’ quarrel

I came to know that there’s a conflict between two vloggers arising from their personal choices as to who should run for President: Sara Duterte or Bongbong Marcos. In my livestream last night, a viewer said I might also be dragged into the fray because of my views about the May 9, 2022 elections which is fast approaching. Honestly, I don’t watch the videos of other vloggers. Most of my time is spent researching for the topics I have scheduled for my livestreams. The balance of my day is devoted to reading books and watching YouTube videos on lectures by prominent leaders in business, academe and military around the world. There’s really no time for me to watch anything else.

It’s not to say that I have a poor estimate of their intelligence and knowledge on local issues. I know they have their own opinions, and I have mine. I respect what they have to say on issues, and I expect them to respect mine. My vlogging is issue-oriented, and I’ve long ago embraced the policy of not wrestling with other vloggers on who does a better job at this craft. I leave it to the audiences to make that decision.

Hence, I believe it makes no sense why vloggers will attack each other on their shows. Vlogging is a platform to help educate and enlighten viewers on almost any subject under the sun. Politics is just one of them. Arguing with other vloggers will not contribute to the accomplishment of that objective. It’s a waste of time and energy. What if I come under attack? Well, I won’t bother to respond. I will not allow anybody to distract me with their tirades. If that’s what makes them happy, or if that’s what helps them attract viewers, then I’ll leave it to them to follow that path.

I’ve always had my share of bashers even from when I was in radio and newspaper writing in Iloilo. When I was writing about the corruption of the disgraced city mayor of Iloilo City, Jed Patrick Mabilog, and his cousin, Senator Franklin Drilon, I was regularly attacked on Facebook by trolls in the payroll of city hall. I was attacked on radio. Several times, Jeffrey Celiz, intimidated me with threatening acts in the premises of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo.

Only last year, I was swarmed by the vloggers on the payroll of Francis Leo Marcos, or Norman Mangusin in real life with all sorts of character assassination. I simply brushed them off, not giving them a single minute of my time. I stayed focus on my investigation into the real character of FLM and exposed the fraud that he was perpetrating. I watched FLM mock me on his livestream, and I just laughed. When you are insulted by the target of your expose, it means that you’re hitting him where it hurts.

My advice to my fellow vloggers is to concentrate on your content and make sure everything is backed up by solid evidence. Digging for dirt about others is not going to make your channel better. Nobody can have a monopoly of viewers. In my case, I don’t mind having less views than the others. I know that viewers have different tastes. I intend to cater to a high-intelligence level of viewers, and not just to those who want vloggers who fling themselves into tirades that are all hot-air and no content. It’s a smaller segment of the audience, I know.

But it’s not the number of viewers only that I am after; I want to have viewers who want to find answers to their own questions about politics and society at large. When I started, I was happy to see 100 viewers for each video. Right now, I have reached an average of 20,000 viewers for each livestream. I look at it as a tremendous accomplishment even though I know they constitute only a very small fraction of Filipinos who regularly watch YouTube. I vlog because it is my passion, and each time I go on air, I am filled with enthusiasm and energy. It is my way of serving our people.

Where is Andy Bautista?

Frankly, it was hard to imagine how Andy Bautista could end up being one of the most crooked men in the Aquino administration. Perhaps it was because he wrote a column. He was also dean of the Institute of Law at the Far Eastern University. The class valedictorian of the Ateneo Law School, he obtained a Masters of Law from Harvard. He looked so clean and competent that at one point in his life, Bautista was nominated to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

But deep inside, Bautista had a weakness: money. When opportunities appeared before him to receive bribes, he didn’t hesitate to grab the opportunity. He loved power because of the money it brought him.

A former Commissioner in the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) with whom he served when he was chairman told me that Bautista was corrupt. This PCGG commissioner said it was an open secret in the agency tasked to go after allegedly ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses that Bautista filched fabulous sums of money from public funds. That was the reason he and his co-Commissioners weren’t surprised to hear about Bautista’s billion-peso bank deposits as exposed by his estranged wife, Patricia.

It is a basic dictum in law that flight is an indication of guilt. Hence, the presumption that Bautista received huge bribes from Smartmatic and politicians who benefited from the cheating was strengthened when the erstwhile Comelec chairman resigned in the middle of an impeachment proceeding against him in the House of Representatives and fled the country. He had also been summoned by the Senate for an investigation into the alleged plunder he had committed.

Bautista is believed to have engineered the massive electronic cheating in the 2016 elections that lifted Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo past her rival, former Senator Bongbong Marcos, and win by a hairline. Presumably much of the money he had in those bank accounts came from the Liberal Party and other politicians. Some may have come from Smartmatic, too. That was a crime akin to treason. If we had the death penalty, this man should be hanged.

Only a few months ago, the Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the National Privacy Commission that Bautista was responsible for data privacy breaches in the Comelec’s databanks between March 20 and 27, 2016. This reinforces that perception that Bautista was indeed behind the electronic fraud in the elections. The illegal intrusion into the Comelec’s databanks for its registered voters was the precursor for the cheating. Bautista needed voter registration data to carry out the cheating.

With the elections only 10 months away, many Filipinos can’t help but express apprehension that Bautista might still be able to pull out a second hat trick in the May 9, 2022 elections. Smartmatic is still the service provider for Comelec. We do not know how deep is the relationship between Bautista and Smartmatic.

Bautista has been sighted several times in the U.S. When his old boss, Noynoy Aquino died, Bautista tweeted this message:

Apparently, Bautista gave those words a different meaning. He took it to mean that he should do whatever was necessary to keep the Liberal Party in power, even if it meant he had to cheat. Unluckily for him, the votes for Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte was a tsunami that was impossible to reverse through electronic cheating. Bautista implemented Plan “B” — make Robredo win, and Franklin Drilon win as number one in the Senate.

As we come closer to the elections, we should badger the Department of Justice to bring back Bautista to make him answer for his crimes.

Was it just coincidence? Or corruption in boxing?

There are howls of protest and ridicule now being heard all across America over the sudden “rebooking” in the slated Pacquiao-Spence bout on August 21 two days ago (Aug. 10).

Without warning, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) announced that Errol Spence, Jr. was found to be afflicted with retinal tear during a mandatory medical examination, forcing him to pull out of the unification fight for the WBC and IBF boxing welterweight championships.

But as quickly as the announcement that Spence was gone as Pacquiao’s foe on the ring, PBC assured boxing fans that the eight-division championship titlist wasn’t about to go home to his job as Senator of the Philippines. PBC found a worthy opponent for Pacquiao — Yordeni Ugas. The 33-year old Cuban, who currently hold the WBA welterweight champion’s belt, had initially been booked as an undercard to fight against Fabian Maidana.

How did the switch happen so quickly?

Well, the organizers said that Maidana had also suffered an injury — a cut below his left eye — on that same day Spence’s injury was disclosed.

What?

How could that possibly happen?

That was too much of a coincidence.

The speculation is that Maidana had to give way by pretending to have suffered a similar eye injury as Spence. There’s too much at stake in Pacquiao going back to the ring. Huge amounts of green bucks have been spent in promotion and booking the venue and pay-per-view contracts.

The financial losses would have been staggering if the main event is cancelled.

Boxing analysts are loudly complaining that this is hardly the match that fans are anticipating. While Ugas is the title-holder for the WBA welterweight championship, it’s not right that he is put to face Pacquiao just like that with little preparation. The same thing can be said about Pacquiao. For months now, Pacquiao trained with Spence in mind. Long hours were spent viewing and reviewing Spence’s previous bouts to develop a battle plan.

There’s no more time to make adjustments. The remaining 10 days before Pacquiao and Ugas meet each other will be the tapering off in training. No more intense sparring sessions. Mostly speed ball and heavy bag sessions will be in their training day. Everything, except maybe for the physical training aspect, is gone to waste. Both fighters will climb the ring essentially unfamiliar with the opponent’s fighting style.

What can we expect on Aug. 21?

It will be a boring fight. The first few rounds are likely to be probing sessions, each fighter trying to size up the other, looking for possible weaknesses. In this situation, it would be too risky to launch an early attack. Nothing in the training had prepared both what to expect from the other. There will be a lot of dancing around, a few jabs thrown here and there. But as both of them will be cautious, the bout could very well turn out to be a night of ballroom dancing on the ring.