"While we celebrate defeats, we don’t care about victories. It’s clearly our fractured sense of values."
The fight for speakership, notably among three lawmakers—Martin Romualdez, Lord Allan Velasco, and Alan Peter Cayetano—reminds me when then Rep. Manny Villar sought me out to seek my advice on his bid to become Speaker during the Erap Estrada presidency.
Till now, I have been wondering why he took time to invite me for lunch at the Spices Restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel when all I could tell him was what I know as a journalist, having covered Congress.
In any case, all I could tell Villar were three things.
First, the House of Representatives was at that time as it is today, composed of several blocs—the opposition, the majority, the minority, the party-list groups, and a group known at that time as the “Young Turks” composed of noisy young congressmen who grouped themselves together to comprise the swing vote.
Second, the party-list bloc that usually complains of being regarded as second-class citizens in the House deprived of what they claim to be their share in House perks and benefits, who can become another swing vote as they are in the present 17th Congress. They usually have a leader who speaks for them, comprising a bigger bloc today.
And third, knowing that you, Manny Villar, are a rich man with sufficient means, some characters in Congress will be asking for money. I told Manny that this is his lookout and he should be ready to answer their demands.
After that meeting, Manny went on to become the House Speaker, and on to become even the Senate President. The rest is history, as they say.
If any of the candidates for Speaker would ask for my piece of advice, I would offer the same, knowing the sentiments of members of the House. It all boils down to attention, fair treatment and money.
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On June 14, the surviving relatives of some 1,400 Ilocano and Igorot casualties who died in the little-known Battle of Bessang Pass, or as recorded in the annals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Battle Among the Clouds because it was an uphill fight for the members of the guerilla movement at the border between Benguet and Ilocos Sur, will mark the 78th anniversary of that battle that culminated in the surrender of General Tomiyuki Yamashita, commander of the Japanese Imperial Forces that occupied the Philippines for close to four years.
The motley group of surviving relatives will gather at the shrine of that battle at Cervantes town in Ilocos Sur put up by then President Fidel V. Ramos in memory of that glorious victory of Filipino guerillas against well-equipped and well-armed Japanese soldiers that had the advantage of higher ground after they retreated to the Cordilleras when American forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur started landing all over the Philippines to liberate the country from Japan.
If I’m passionate about the Battle of Bessang Pass, it is because both my late elder brother, Desi, who later on became an associate justice of the Court of Appeals, and Willie, who later on became manager of the Manila International Airport, fought in that battle.
Desi, as company lieutenant of “F” Company of the 121st Infantry of the guerilla movement in the North, the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon), led the assault leading to the surrender of Yamashita, who later on was executed in Los Baños, Laguna for the crime of genocide after the rape of Manila. Desi was awarded by the AFP a Silver Star for heroism and bravery beyond the call of duty. My other brother, Willie, got a Purple Heart for getting wounded in that battle.
The cost of that glorious victory was some 1,400 lives of both Ilocano and Igorot soldiers. My brother Desi used to tell me during one of his furloughs to Bangar, La Union, that Igorot guerillas did not exhibit fear during battle, charging enemy frontline.
The irony of it all is that while we celebrate defeats like the Fall of Bataan and the Fall of Corregidor on April 9, called Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, we don’t celebrate glorious victories in Philippine history such as the Battle of Bessang Pass.
Only two presidents deemed the Bessang Pass victory worthy of celebration—the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who himself was a veteran of Bataan and a guerilla leader of the 14th Infantry of USAFIP-NL as a major, and Ramos, who had ordered the construction of the shrine commemorating the victory, himself a veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War.
I consider the fact that while we celebrate defeats, we don’t care about victories. It’s clearly our fractured sense of values.
There had been many Ilocanos who were chiefs of the AFP, and now members of the Cabinet. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, an Ilocano, should revise history and urge President Duterte to celebrate June 14 as a day of victory. Only Duterte can do it. Why not, Mister President? The Ilocano nation will be grateful to you forever.
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It’s unfortunate that the Senate did not consider the appeal of Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez for the Senate to give priority to the passage of the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience before it sine die adjourned, considering that we are now in the rainy season.
During the rainy season, we can expect the normal, one cyclone after another, to hit the Philippines, and the usual disasters and calamities like landslides and people getting killed, not to mention earthquakes and aftershocks.
Yedda Romualdez, now Tingog party-list Rep.-elect, was one of the principal sponsors of the bill which was passed by the House on third and final reading.
The DDR would guarantee a unity of command, science-based approach and full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters.
While the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council had been devolved, there is need for unity of command and focus since the DDR would provide leadership in the continuous development of strategy and systematic approach to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation, and anticipatory adaptation strategies, measures, techniques, and options.
One of my advocacy has always been one body responsible for the three “RE”—Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation—all concentrated in one single government agency.
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Despite his foul utterances, his lewd and obscene language, his vulgar and rude ways, especially his rants against priests and bishops, and even on God, people seem to have trust and satisfaction on what Duterte is doing.
The rise of his popularity and the fact that his favorite senatorial candidates made it to the Magic 12 circle of winners attest to the fact that the greater majority of Filipinos like Duterte.
Initially, I found it difficult to reconcile him with the “excellent” satisfaction and trust ratings he’s been getting from the two mainstream poll surveyors—Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.
The way I see it is that the majority of Filipinos find in Duterte the President they have long wanted to have, unlike the usual prim and proper presidents we had been getting. Duterte amuses them, and the people like that.
Most importantly, they like to hear things done differently from what other presidents had been doing. And the people like him to do things that they themselves would like to be done.
There are, however, his unfulfilled promises, like the end of the drug menace once and for all and his vow to end corruption.
In his war against illegal drugs, I still believe that Duterte is going about it the wrong way, treating the illegal drug menace like it’s a peace and order problem, which it is not. It’s a health care issue which needs the rehabilitation of some 6 to 8 million drug addicts nationwide, not 3 to 4 million as earlier reported.
Thus, while there is still a big demand for illegal drugs, smugglers who are allied with syndicates and cartels continue to smuggle drugs through Customs. And if Duterte will not change tactics, the drug menace, I am afraid, will continue even beyond his term.
As for his war on corruption, Duterte in fact, has made it a big joke, exempting his friends and allies, and at times even promoting them. Now, who will believe him.