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Window to the past: The saga of the Museo Iloilo

Architect Sergio Penasales is an angry man these days. That’s because his “baby”, the 47-year old Museo Iloilo, is scheduled to be demolished and give way to more infrastructure development on the Iloilo Capitol grounds. His anger isn’t because he was the architect who designed the 500-sqm. building and supervised its construction in 1971. He can’t stand seeing an institution that served as the soul of Iloilo torn down just to make way for “development”.

In the almost five decades of its existence, the Museo Iloilo has drawn hundreds of thousands of young Ilonggos to enter its doors and gain a deep understanding of Iloilo’s rich history and cultural heritage. It gave Ilonggos a sense of identity, a soul that has its foundation the bravery of our forefathers, making them proud of their heritage. No other institution has provided that kind of service to a people.

“It’s not just a building,” Penasales told this writer in a chance meeting at the Prestige Lounge of SM City Iloilo last Sunday. “It’s an institution that helped shape who were are as Ilonggos.” But his protestations seem to have fallen on deaf ears. With the opening of the Regional Museum in the restored Iloilo Provincial Jail building, TIEZA, which has been given control over the Museo Iloilo, may no longer use it for its original purpose. It’s not clear if the building will remain standing, or be demolished to make way for new structures.

Penasales vividly remembers how the Museo Iloilo came about. In 1969, Gregorio Araneta II, commissioner of the Bureau of Travel and Tourist Industry (BTTI), broached the idea of building a local museum in his home province. He had a budget of P100,000 for the project. The Province of Iloilo, through the late Governor Conrado J. Norada, donated a 2,000-sqm. lot on the west side of the provincial grounds as site for the museum. Araneta had hoped both the Province and City could chip in funds to pursue the project. But these LGUs had no money. The Capitol promised to haul 350 truckloads of earth soil as back filling instead.

The National Museum had a prepared design for the project. However, when this was put to a bidding, the bids were several times above the budget that Araneta had set aside. Penasales, then in his 30s, was recruited into the project and asked to present a design in one week’s time. Penasales worked long into the night to finish his design. The night before his deadline, he fell sick. But that didn’t stop him from meeting Araneta the next morning to show him the design which is now what we see is the present Museo Iloilo.

museo-iloilo-iloilo-museum

After getting the go-signal to proceed with the project, Penasales encountered a new challenge: how to execute his facade which shows the centuries-old churches in the province. “I had no experience with this technique,” he said. He asked another architect for advice. He decided to experiment. He drew the silhouettes of the churches on plywood sheets and had them etched, layer over layer to serve as form when the concrete was poured. The drawings of the churches were to be cast into the wall, not carved out of the concrete.

A stroke of luck accompanied the construction of the Museo. Just as it was about to be finished, fishermen discovered the sunken remains of a British merchant ship off the beaches of the Arevalo district. Among its contents were rare china — plates, bowls, etc. The fishermen had initially kept their find a secret. They dove under water to the sunken vessel instead of fishing out in the sea to recover a few artifacts at a time and sell them to collectors. But somebody tipped them off to the police, and the area was quickly cordoned off. The National Museum was alerted, and Navy frogmen (as they were known then) took over the recovery of the artifacts. This started the collection of artifacts and historical items at the Museo Iloilo.

Next came the debate on the name of the museum. There were people who insisted that the place be called, “Museo de Iloilo.” Penasales argued that it was better to just stick to “Museo Iloilo.” Penasales prevailed in this debate.

With this turn-over of the Museo to the TIEZA, Penasales is upset that the more than four decades of culture and history that was showcased here would be lost forever. The new regional museum at the old site of the Iloilo Provincial Jail has just opened, and there were talks about demolishing the Museo to give way for the development of the Capitol grounds. He feels this would be a great disrespect for the institution that became the source of Ilonggo pride.

 

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Back to the airwaves

The first time I sat as radio anchor was back when I was still in college. RMN’s DYVR station in Roxas City was then being managed by Mrs. Violeta Arnaldo, widow of the late Lorenzo “Inzo” Arnaldo who was a city mayor of Roxas City. I think it was in the summer of 1977 when Tita Violet sent word she wanted to see me. I was 18 years old.

Tita Violet told me her station had a slot for the summer for a disc jockey. But I had no experience talking on radio, I replied. She said I can learn on the job. The time slot was 7-9 p.m. every day, from Monday to Friday. It was just for the two months when school was out. All I needed to do was play music and do occasional ad-libs. At the time, Roxas City had no FM stations. Radio was AM — news, drama and music.

That was 40 years ago. After that two-month exposure to radio, I was hooked. And so it was that in 1991, I was confident enough to accept the job offer of Fred Davis, then area manager of Manila Broadcasting Co. (MBC) to join his line-up of anchors for the new radio station that was to be opened. This was DyOK 720, which is now known as “Aksyon Radyo Iloilo”. I stayed there for two years.

Interview with Jovy Salonga and Nene Pimentel DYOK

As an anchorman of DYOK 720 in 1992, I interviewed the venerable Senator Jovito Salonga who was then running for President in the 1992 national elections. With him are former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. and the late Iloilo Vice Governor Ramon Duremdes.

Print journalism was always my number one passion. And even when I occupied positions in government, I always managed to find time to write columns for The Daily Guardian and to blog. I have been blogging since 2008. I anchored a weekly radio program when I was Provincial Administrator of Iloilo to deliver reports about the Tupas administration and engaged critics over issues. In 2012, I was back on radio to tackle issues about corruption. Then City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was a constant target for criticism.

Being a communicator is really in my blood. Recently, I have done Facebook Live broadcasts, and I am happy to note that

With John Paul Tia

Being interviewed by Aksyon John Paul Tia in 2014.

it was well received. This is how I could serve the people — to inform them and to educate them by dissecting issues especially in this age of fake news. It is easy to be confused and misled, and I hope I can enlighten the public about the truth.

This is the motivation that led me to negotiate with 89.5 FM of the Aliw Broadcasting Corp. to buy a radio block time starting the first week of May. The time slot is 7:00-8:00 p.m. It will not be exclusively about politics; I intend to talk about health, business, entrepreneurship and personal growth. I will do interviews with a variety of resource

Aksyon Radyo interview

Speaking before the microphone to elucidate on issues.

persons to achieve that purpose.

It will be like fish being thrown back into the water for me.

As much as possible, I will avoid doing hard-hitting commentaries, although I know that is what many people want. I will keep any criticism positive, with the purpose of calling attention

to matters that need straightening up by those in government and business. I have also ordered equipment to allow me to do Facebook Live during my program and engage listeners not only in Iloilo, but worldwide, in an active conversation about the issues.

Watch out for my announcement on the maiden broadcast. I am just finalizing the details.

Supreme Court rules: De Lima’s arrest legal

The issue of legality over the arrest of former DOJ Secretary and Senator Leila de Lima has finally been settled by the Supreme Court when it dismissed her motion for reconsideration last Tuesday, April 17, 2018. It means De Lima can no longer play the card of being a victim of persecution (the way she abused her own power when she was DOJ Secretary). She will now have to face the charges against her in a full-blown trial.

Leila de Lima

Photo credit: Jansen Romero/Manila Bulletin

Indeed, even just the frequent visits of De Lima to the National Bilibid Prisons where she partied with convicted drug lords should have been enough to jail her. There was no justification for such closeness with hardened criminals. It lends credence to the allegations that she collected money from the drug lords, thereby making her a party to the illegal drugs trade.

I am appalled the Liberal Party politicians found nothing wrong with such behavior. Well, I guess rubbing elbows with criminals was the norm during their stay in power. The Supreme Court ruling makes De Lima no different from other arrested individuals facing trial, and it’s time the trial courts order her transfer to an ordinary jail.

We must keep in mind that the charges filed against De Lima aren’t political in nature. These involve illegal drugs. She must be incarcerated in the Muntinlupa City jail where other persons facing the same cases are detained. It’s time she doesn’t get special treatment.

 

‘Very good’

The opposition has thrown about everything they have in their arsenal. but the net satisfaction rating of President Rodrigo Duterte has remained constant at “very good” in the 1st quarter 2018 poll survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The President’s gross satisfaction rating fell only 1% for the period with 70% of the 1,200 respondents nationwide giving him a “satisfied” rating while 14% said they were “dissatisfied”. This translated to a net 56% net satisfaction rating for this survey period, or 2% lower than his previous net satisfaction rating of 58% in December 2017.

This only establishes one thing: Filipinos approve of the way President Duterte is running the country. The issue of extra judicial killings that led the International Criminal Court to open an investigation in February this year clearly had no effect on the President’s popularity. It’s as if nothing could shake the people’s confidence in the man.

What does this imply?

For one thing, Filipinos want a tough leader to confront the illegal drugs problem. For many, the casualties in the drugs war are a necessary evil. The problem cannot be licked with the so-called rule of law, which is very weak in the first place, and drug syndicates have always managed to run circles around law enforcers with their money and influence, and well-paid lawyers. That’s not to mention rampant corruption in law enforcement, the national prosecution service and even the judiciary.

And, as we have seen, putting drug lords and pushers to jail is hardly making a dent on the problem. Even while in jail, drug lords continue with their business, running their operations with the use of cell phones smuggled inside jails. Sadly, nothing much has changed after President Duterte deployed the Special Action Force, the elite PNP unit, to guard the National Bilibid Prisons. The corruption is frustrating the efforts to stop illegal drugs.

In simple terms, the government is severely handicapped in this war against illegal drugs if it sticks to the rule-of-law approach. And Filipinos understand this. They realize violence is a necessary evil in fighting the illegal drugs syndicates.

It’s just too bad that many of the casualties are poor. That’s because they are vulnerable to the lure of easy money that the illegal drugs business offers.

Another reason why President Duterte enjoys high trust ratings despite the barrage of issues thrown against him by the opposition is that Filipinos have grown sick and tired of the rhetoric of the yellows, particularly the Liberal Party. The nation saw one of the worst corruption in its history in the six years that the Liberal Party was in power. Worse, the Liberal Party cheated in the last two elections in a vain effort to perpetuate themselves in power.

And it was the Liberal Party that orchestrated the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia mass vaccination that is believed to have caused dozens of deaths among Filipino children and put the lives of thousands more at risk.

President Duterte is not perfect. I have said this time and again. But he is the best option for the country right now. The worse thing that could happen to the Philippines is allow the Liberal Party to retake power.

 

 

Noynoy, Garin and Abad deserve to rot in jail over Dengvaxia mess

At long last, the Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon has found more than enough basis to seek the prosecution of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, former DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin and former DBM Secretary Butch Abad for their conspiracy to put the lives of Filipino children at risk with the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program at a cost of P3.5 billion.

Right from the start, I was already convinced about the culpability of these former officials, especially in undermining the Government Procurement Reform Act and related laws, just to roll out this mass vaccination program over the loud protests of experts on dengue.

Everything about the transaction smacks of what we call “lutong makaw”, a Filipino slang for a transaction that was rigged to favor Sanofi Pasteur and ensure that it bags the P3.5 billion contract even before it was given final clearance on the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia.

Senator Gordon is correct: the bureaucracy moved like an express train, with each move so well coordinated one would think it was a Philharmonic orchestra performing. Even the manner the P3.5 billion was obtained and released through a SARO was unbelievably fast, knowing that the bureaucratic red tape normally would take one year to do that.

When the bureaucracy behaves that way, one can easily conclude the directives go all the way up, and not just at the Cabinet level.

Hopefully, the Ombudsman would pick up from where the Blue Ribbon Committee and redeem itself just as Tanodbayan Conchita Carpio Morales is about to retire. The graft investigators have mountains of evidence to sort out and build an airtight case against these three individuals who have committed the greatest sin against the Filipino people. This is a case that cannot be allowed to fail; the people have been betrayed more than enough.

And justice must be swift. The Ombudsman should elevate the case to the Sandiganbayan within a year. The souls of Filipino children who have died because of Dengvaxia are crying for justice. Noynoy, Janette and Butch should rot in jail for justice to be delivered to the victims.

Wet ballots a tactic to delay manual recount

A few days ago, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, lawyer for Leni Robredo, said the manual recount could drag on for six years. Ordinarily, that statement is to be taken with a grain of salt. But the discovery of wet ballots not only in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal where the electoral protest filed by former Senator Bongbong Marcos is being heard since April 2, I can see that this is the tactic adopted by the Liberal Party to prevent an early resolution.

Yesterday, my sources at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) revealed that ballots in the third district of Camarines Sur were also found to be wet. These were from the town of Calabanga and Naga City. After the HRET is finished with these ballots, they will have to be stuffed back into the boxes and delivered to the PET. Well, the ballots might already have dried up by then. But the PET will only find what is now known: the ballots are useless for purposes of revision.

This is no longer an accident of nature. My guess is that wet ballots will ultimately be found in all towns of Camarines Sur when the revision committees at the PET shall have completed the task of opening each ballot box and taking out their contents. Is there any other conclusion we can reach with these discoveries of wet ballots? This wasn’t the work of nature; it was done by human hands.

Atty. Romulo Macalintal was quick to downplay the discovery of wet ballots. Marcos, he said, has no evidence of the fraud that he is claiming. Well, he is right in a way. That’s because the water soaked ballots have been rendered unreadable. It will prevent the revisors from doing what they have been mandated to do: examine each ballot to find out to which candidate an individual vote went. There is nothing to read anymore, that’s why.

I will now connect this to what Macalintal said about the manual recount taking as long as six years. He is conditioning the mind of the people to expect further delays in knowing the truth. With the wet ballots no longer readable, the revision committees will have to turn to the image captures of the individual ballots as these were inserted into the VCMs. This will take time, a long, long time.

The facts are clear. Soaking the ballots with water to render them unreadable is a delaying tactic. It will frustrate the bid of Marcos to determine the genuine outcome of the elections for Vice President in the soonest possible time. The Liberal Party has resorted to a crude ploy to force the manual recount to slow down to a crawl. Only Leni can possibly benefit from a delay. If the manual recount goes beyond 2022, as what Macalintal hinted at, then the whole process will become moot and academic.

With this scenario, the Filipino people will have to guard against further destabilization efforts of the Liberal Party in a desperate move to topple President Rodrigo Duterte and push Leni to the Presidency. We have also to pray that the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, will not allow these delaying tactics to succeed.

 

‘Wet’ is the name of the game in CamSur

The discovery of “wet” ballots from Camarines Sur municipalities isn’t just confined to the on-going manual recount of ballots for the disputed position of Vice President in the May 9, 2016 elections.

Just a while ago, I received information that similar patterns of tampering and cheating were also uncovered by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in the election protest filed by former Rep. Luis Villafuerte against incumbent Rep. Gabby Bordado.

The HRET began the revision of the ballots for the town of Calabanga, Camarines Sur on Thursday (April 5, 2018). When the revisors opened the ballot boxes, they found the ballots wet and unreadable, the same as what was discovered in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal where the contested votes for Vice President are now being scrutinized.

Today, April 6, 2018, the revisors opened the ballot boxes for Naga City, the bailiwick of Leni Robredo, and found the ballots in the same condition: wet and unreadable. More than that, the revisors found cut grass inside the ballot boxes, a clear indication that these were opened by unauthorized persons and stuffed with it.

These ballot boxes from the third district of Camarines Sur will be dispatched to the PET upon the conclusion of the HRET manual recount for the protest of Villafuerte. These ballots will join what is now a procession of wet ballots from Camarines Sur.

The pattern is much too obvious to be attributed to a fluke of nature (rain water penetrating the ballot boxes). It can’t be coincidence. It is becoming clear that the soaking of the ballots was done systematically with one purpose in mind: to cover up the crime of cheating.

As if that wasn’t enough, the revisors found the ballots from the Naga City boxes NEATLY STACKED and ORGANIZED along with other paraphernalia. Everybody knows that ballots are inserted into the VCM and then dropped inside the boxes in random order, and finding them organized and stacked neatly is evidence that these have been tampered.

Interestingly, Bordado belonged to the Liberal Party. He was vice mayor of Naga City who decided to do battle with the veteran Villafuerte. It was a David versus Goliath match. But it appears Goliath was no match for the “well-oiled machinery” that Leni unleashed in Camarines Sur.

The evil deeds of the Liberal Party cheating machine didn’t take too long to be uncovered. Robredo’s lawyer, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, has a lot of explaining to do. Is wet the standard or norm for Camarines Sur balloting? This is a pattern, and cheating is written all over the place.