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‘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.

 

 

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Now, here’s the beef: pre-shaded ballots for Leni

As the manual recount for the contested votes in Camarines Sur reached its third day yesterday (April 4, 2018), more evidence of the rampant cheating that took place in the May 9, 2016 elections have surfaced. This time, the revision committees that opened ballot boxes from the municipality of Baao, Camarines Sur discovered pre-shaded ballots — some torn in half indicating that these were excess or unused ballots — mixed with valid ballots. Aside from this, two clustered precinct ballot boxes were found wet, with the ballots badly damaged and the data contained no longer readable.

The pre-shading of ballots for President and Vice President — Mar Roxas for President and Leni Robredo for Vice President — is not exactly news. A former staff assistant for Mar Roxas accidentally mentioned to me that he delivered “ballots” to several tThe carpenterowns in Iloilo and Aklan a few days before election day. Of course, I didn’t press for details; I just pretended I didn’t catch it. What he did add was that mayoralty candidates in some towns complained when only one of the two got a share of the ballots. Certainly, these couldn’t be sample ballots. Why would such a chore be handled by a trusted aide, personally delivered? And now that there is evidence of pre-shaded ballots, what he told me now makes sense. The Liberal Party did distribute pre-shaded ballots to ensure a landslide victory for Mar and Leni in controlled areas.

This is getting to be more interesting, and revealing, of just how widespread the cheating that took place was.

The Liberal Party was really desperate to make Leni win, with Senator Franklin Drilon as number one among senatorial winners.

Is the battle against corruption worth fighting?

Sometimes I get to ask myself whether all the sacrifice, and risk to my personal safety, are worth it when I dig into leads on anomalous transactions in government. And that question once more came to mind yesterday (March 23, 2018) when I read in the news that the graft case I had filed against Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco, Jr. in connection with the P3.25 million fertilizer fund scam in Iloilo’s 2nd District was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan due to the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in conducting its preliminary investigation.

I filed the case in 2004 while I was still provincial administrator of Iloilo. But it took the Ombudsman more than 11 years to wrap up its preliminary investigation and file an indictment against Syjuco. The Sandiganbayan had no recourse but grant the motion to dismiss filed by Syjuco’s lawyers as the snail-paced preliminary investigation violated Syjuco’s right to speedy justice. I was also a victim, because my right to the speedy prosection of my complaint was violated. It is a right afforded to both parties to a case.

The Sandiganbayan was only being consistent. It had dismissed a long list of cases based on that ground alone. It wasn’t even about the evidence, because in this case, there was abundant documentary evidence to show that the entire transaction happened only on paper. Not a single drop of liquid fertilizer reached the hands of supposed beneficiaries in Alimodian. The list of “farmers” were only made up by Syjuco’s own men. Syjuco, through his Tawo kag Duta Cooperative, pocketed P3.25 million. It could have been P5.0 million which was the allocation for the 2nd district. But my investigation into the case scared off Syjuco’s people, and aborted the effort to collect the balance.

The other cases I had filed are at risk. These had also taken more than six years to resolve at the preliminary investigation stage. Syjuco’s lawyers will most certainly try to get them dismissed on the same ground.

Which brings me to the question: Is the Ombudsman even committed to obtaining the conviction of Syjuco and other public officials charged with graft? Sadly, the track record of the Ombudsman doesn’t give reason for me to answer in the affirmative. It has already lost a number of big cases because of that ground alone. In other cases, sloppy lawyering led to the dismissal of the cases.

It’s not just sloppy lawyering that has hindered the Ombudsman’s ability to run after the crooks in government and punish them for their corruption. I’ve become aware of specific instances when Ombudsman investigators offered to dismiss graft cases in exchange for millions of pesos. The very agency that is mandated under the Constitution to run after crooks in government is engaged in corrupt practices. Justice is also for sale at the Ombudsman.

So far, the Ombudsman’s track record has been limited to sending rank-and-file employees to prison. It’s been prosecution the pork barrel scam for many years now, and it hasn’t obtained a single conviction. Its success is counted with lowly clerks being dismissed from the service or sent to jail. It tried to redeem its image by dismissing Jed Patrick Mabilog as city mayor of Iloilo City last year. That action didn’t impress President Duterte.

My only consolation is that my exposes on Syjuco’s anomalies awakened the constituency of the 2nd district of Iloilo to his corruption. In 2013, the voters of the 2nd district of Iloilo rejected Syjuco’s bid for a fourth term as congressman, losing to Arcadio Gorriceta, the three-term municipal mayor of Pavia. In a way, I can claim credit for the lonely battle to educate the people about Syjuco’s corruption. That, for me, was punishment enough for Syjuco.

Syjuco is also facing criminal charges for the corruption at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in 2004 to 2010. Billions of pesos were plundered in overpriced purchases of tools and equipment, money that could have been spent for the educaton of young Filipinos in vocational skills. I am hopeful that Syjuco would be convicted, even if he doesn’t get to be jailed on account of his age.

Bautista is a leech

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is still fighting immense pressure for him to just step down from his post and face the unexplained wealth case before the Ombudsman.

What could be holding him back? I read the blog of ABS-CBN House reporter RG Cruz two days ago and he quoted Commissioner Arthur Lim that something was likely to happen “in the next few days”. Lim hinted at resignation or going on leave.

Is Bautista still hoping that a miracle will suddenly extinguish the conflagration that is engulfing him? His brother, Dr. Martin Bautista, isn’t helping him deal with the crisis. On the contrary, Dr. Bautista only doused aviation fuel on the issue as more exposes about his medical practice in Oklahoma raised more questions than answered.

It’s more likely Bautista is waiting for cues from his Liberal Party bosses. His departure from Comelec might pave the way for the discovery of evidence that indeed, massive cheating occured in the May 2016 elections.

Stop being a leech, Andy. You should have resigned last week yet. But it’s not too late.

None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

NO “ZONA LIBRE” FOR VICE GOVERNOR?

The controversy over the “zona libre” issue for the position of Vice Governor of Iloilo will put Mar Roxas in a no-win situation. It will cause the “unity ticket” that he and Franklin Drilon put together in Iloilo province to crumble before the campaign period for the presidency could even start.
Here’s what happened:
Four years ago, Mar Roxas recruited into the Liberal Party the political clans that wielded power in each of the province’s 1st and 3rd districts. He welcomed into the LP fold Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin Sr. In the process, Roxas dislodged the original LPs like the late Niel Tupas Sr., now vice governor Boboy Tupas, Gen. Gerry Flores and many more.
Rojas wanted the Iloilo vote to be solid for him in the 2016 presidential elections. It was a given that incumbent 2nd district Congressman Arcadio Gorriceta and 5th district Congressman Junjun Tupas would throw their support for him.
But that solid political front is about to disintegrate. Mar Roxas broke his word to the Garins that the race for vice governor would be “zona libre”, meaning the LP will consider the two candidates for the position, Junjun Tupas and Christine “Tintin” Garin, to be equals. The Garins didn’t expect Junjun to run, and thought Tintin had the position on a silver platter. To everybody’s surprise, Junjun filed his COC at the last minute.
The Garins brought the matter to Roxas as the LP standard bearer. According to the father and son Garins — Oca and Congressman Richard — Roxas assured them it was going to be “zona libre”. And that’s what the Garins told the people of Iloilo.
This claim was quickly disputed by Junjun. The Garins were lying, he said.
The controversy reached its peak when Roxas arrived in Iloilo City for the “Dinagyang” festival last Jan. 24. Pressed by media to comment on the issue, Roxas said there is no free zone: Junjun Tupas is the lone candidate recognized by the LP.
It is unlikely the Garins will accept this turn-around of Roxas just like that. It is a stab in the back for them. Oca Garin was heard over radio as saying that Roxas did not deserve to be President if he could break his word. That is short of saying Mar Roxas can kiss his ambition good-bye. The Garins will withdraw support from him at the last moment.
This situation will give Roxas a migraine. The last poll survey showed he could count on only 47% of the Iloilo vote. That’s bad by itself, because it means he could not build enough cushion to cover areas where he is expected to lose heavily. With the Garins junking him, Roxas can expect his voter base in Iloilo to precipitously drop as election day draws nearer.
Poor Mar. He is getting a dose of his own medicine.

FIGHTING ON TWO FRONTS

I was told the Liberal Party commissioned a poll survey firm to get a snapshot of how the congressional battle between two Tupases — Boboy TupasFive and Atty. Gel Tupas — in the 5th district of Iloilo.
According to my unimpeachable source, the survey outcome showed the incumbent Iloilo vice governor leading his sister in law by a mile. If elections were held during the survey period two weeks ago, Boboy would have trounced Gel by 4:1.
With barely 100 days left before the elections when that survey was done, it shows a hopeless fight for Gel. Her husband, incumbent Congressman Niel “Junjun” Tupas Jr., could not lift her enough to put up a good fighting chance.
Gel’s woes are aggravated by the fact that Junjun is also running for vice governor of the province. Her husband would not be able to campaign as hard for her. He has his own battle to fight.
Junjun is running against Guimbal municipal mayor Christine “Tintin” Garin, daughter of 1st district kingpin Oscar Garin Sr.
The latest surveys showed Junjun enjoying a slight edge over Garin, owing much to the immense political goodwill of the Tupas family name.
But Junjun is navigating through hazardous waters.
That’s because he is violating a cardinal rule in warfare (and politics is basically warfare): never fight on two fronts.
Gel is just proxy for Junjun in the 5th district. The outgoing congressman wants to keep his hold on the congressional district and occupy a position that could propel him to be governor of the province. It’s a classic illustration of “having his cake and eat it, too.”
The Garin clan is not about ready to give Junjun an easy slide into the second highest elected position in the province.
This early, Garin is bombarding the airwaves with TV and radio advertisements. She is determined to put up a stiff fight.
Junjun faces big problems because while Mar Roxas affirmed he is the official Liberal Party candidate and there is no “zone libre” for the vice gubernatorial race, local LP candidates have manifested their open zone policy for Garin.
Even Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. has announced publicly he will not pressure his municipal mayors to obstruct the campaign of Garin. That in itself is “zona libre” in disguise.
In the 4th district, come backing Dr. Ferj Biron AccountTwo is certain to campaign against Junjun. Biron is the official candidate of the Liberal Party. His support for Garin will pull the rugs under his feet because the 4th district was always a Tupas bailiwick. For it to go to Garin will deprive Junjun of a traditional political base.
When the campaign period kicks off, Junjun will have to make a tough decision. Does he pursue his ambition to control the 5th district at the same time as his vice gubernatorial bid? Or will he pick one battle and try to win that, sacrificing the other?
He only needs to look back in history to know that fighting on two fronts simultaneously is dangerous. Even the most brilliant military strategists, notably Napoleon and Hitler, faltered and failed when they succumb to that temptation.
Another problem facing Junjun to his vice gubernatorial campaign is the possibility that his own siblings, and die-hard supporters of his late father, Niel Tupas Sr., might openly campaign for Garin.
It would be tragic to see Junjun lose on both fronts.
His overreaching ambition, and perhaps greed, will only lead him to damnation.