Friday, November 20, 2009

How morally and intellectually fit are the candidates?

With so many overcrowding the 2010 presidential race, it may not be so easy to avoid  a no-holds-barred campaign.  Negative campaigning could rule the day as all gloves come off and the parties expose and exploit each other’s dark secrets. Is that good or bad? Bad perhaps for those who have a lot to hide, but probably good for us who need to know more about our candidates.


If we can but agree that government is not entertainment, that an election is not a beauty contest, and that more than popularity and charm are needed to run a government, then we should welcome knowing more about the hidden lives of our candidates.  


Until now,  all we know is their media image. Unverified and unverifiable surveys and uninhibited hype have tried to perpetuate these images in lieu of the truth about the candidates.  Do we really know what kind of human beings they are?  Are they morally and intellectually fit for the office they seek?


We do not seem to care.  It seems  enough for us to be able to say that Manny Villar used to be poor, that Noynoy Aquino is the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, that Gibo Teodoro is the candidate of President Arroyo, that Erap Estrada  counts on the masa, that Mar Roxas is married to Korina, that Edu Manzano is a game show host, that Loren Legarda has great billboards, that Jojo Binay runs Makati, and that their fate depends on the surveys.    


But if we really want to be part of the electoral process,  we need to know, at the very least, the candidates’ moral character and  professional competence.  This is a conditio sine qua non for our responsible and intelligent participation in the process.  


First, character.  This is the first building block of leadership. It defines a person’s personality, his or her relationship with others, his or her private and public life.  If he or she has no control over his or her carnal appetites, that person is likely to have no control over his or her appetite for power or material wealth.  If a person thinks nothing about his or her marriage vows,  that person is not likely to think any better of his or her oath of office.  If a person is a serial adulterer or one of loose moral character, he or she is not likely to be the soul of honesty, purity or justice in public office  or anywhere else.


            It is imperative, therefore, that the candidates’ personal  lives be known to all, beginning with their state of health, mental and physical.  In that respect, we could perhaps adopt the admirable practice in the United States, where despite the society’s moral permissiveness, no one may seek high office whose public record is  tainted with even just one known adultery, past or present. 


            Of course in Europe, some streetwalkers and transvestites have been raised to parliament, and some divorced politicians have landed in the highest places.  But  these are polyamorous and neo-pagan  socities whose norms are different from ours. Our experience with a president with multiple households has not been good for the country, the government or even the president himself.  We cannot have another such president, or even a vice-president of the same moral mold.   


            After character, comes competence.  The most morally upright individual will not do, if incompetent.  In fact, no morally upright individual will want to take on any position for  which he or she is not qualified. That would be rank  dishonesty, corruption and injustice. Not unlike putting a blind man on the bridge of a ship to steer it to safety through a storm in the high seas.  


We have had that very same experience at least a couple of times now. We cannot, we shouldn’t,  wish for more.  The cat that burns its butt on a hot stove learns never to lie down again on the same stove  even after it has gotten cold. We would be less than cats if we do not learn from past experience.   


Several years ago, somebody asked Dolphy, our greatest living comedian, to run for president.  His reply was quick: “Ayoko, baka manalo ako.” (“I don’t want, I might win.”)  Unfortunately we only have one Dolphy; the other celebrities are not nearly half  half as bright. It is now up to us to deal with them.


            At all levels, we are plagued with a diseased understanding of politics.   


1) Loren Legarda strangely announced her vice-presidential candidacy before she could find a presidential candidate.  This normally is not done.  After Manny Villar finally took her into the NP, the first thing her NPC partymates said was that they were supporting her but not Villar. They are simply not part of the deal.  The guy who picked up a hitch hiker on the road may or may not have a smooth drive from here on.     


2) Former Sen.  Ralph Recto, who had been  Arroyo’s  Socio-Economic Planning Secretary after his unsuccessful Senate run in 2007, resigned his Cabinet post without any known policy conflict with Malacanang.  Then he walked into the Liberal Party which welcomed him as a senatorial candidate. 


The issue here is honor, not party loyalty, which no longer exists. In any administration, a Cabinet member shares the responsibility for the success or failure of the policies of the administration. If the Arroyo administration has failed Recto was partly responsible for that failure.  Inside a casino no one could go to the cashier to claim any winnings after losing his game.  But that’s exactly what happened here. Recto seems luckier than everybody else, including the LP, whose loss is now Ralph’s gain.


This, however, is not an isolated case. Some administration senators are seeking reelection not as administration candidates but as  “guest candidates” of  parties in the opposition. Only in the Philippines.        

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What did Hillary tell GMA and Noynoy?

Reports persist that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Manila to simply ensure clean and credible elections instead of running for any elective post in  2010.  And that she gave Sen. Noynoy Aquino at his request a brief private audience.      


            Are these to be believed? 


            First, the Arroyo story.  For obvious reasons, neither Malacanang nor the U.S. Embassy will confirm this story. But perhaps certain things could help.  While Clinton was in town,  the Star ran my piece on  Mrs. Arroyo possibly running for vice-president.  It elicited a few telephone calls. Before the day was out the ruling Lakas-Kampi party announced Edu Manzano, a tv host of modest standing, as its vice presidential candidate.


Some observers noted that although not all politicians are superstitious, they generally avoid making important decisions on  the 13th  day of the month, least of all on Friday the 13th.  They are not likely to build a building with a 13th floor or be photographed in a group of 13.  But the ruling party chose the date for Edu’s run as though it could no longer wait.


            In apparent appreciation, President Barack Obama put his arm (figuratively) around Mrs. Arroyo at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore. He sat with her at the US-ASEAN summit at the margins of the APEC meeting and asked her to draft a five-year plan for US-ASEAN engagement in trade, security, human rights and climate change.


            A heart attack may no longer be called for if at the end of the day, contrary to all previous speculations, Mrs. Arroyo and family finally decide to go on an extended ocean cruise around the world, end up in the Galapagos Islands or Rio, and not run for anything anymore. 


            What about Hillary’s  reported encounter with Noynoy? It is to Noynoy’s credit that if there was such a meeting, he has not made political capital of it by leaking it to the press.  But it should be good for all if he could reassure his present and potential supporters that he is not running as an American candidate. It is no longer fashionable or helpful to be called an American boy.


In 1953, the Filipino voters did not mind having a president who was openly managed by the CIA’s Col. Edward Lansdale.  Ramon Magsaysay was genuinely popular among the masses because of his anti-Huk campaign, and when he died in a plane crash in 1957, our people interred him in their pantheon of heroes. No Filipino scholar has since dared to reexamine his record, so year after year, several men and women are proud to receive  their Magsaysay awards. But times have changed. 


Even though the US  had figured prominently in deposing Marcos and installing Cory Aquino as president, she tried not to be seen openly as an American marionette. She marched to the Senate to try to persuade her own senators to approve a new treaty that would have given the US bases another ten years after 1991, but no one could persuade her to receive US Defense Secretary Richard Cheney even for a few minutes, for being the alter-ego of US President George Herbert Bush who had made the unfortunate mistake of praising Marcos earlier for his “adherence” to the democratic process. 


Those who have heard Noynoy say anything on any subject at all would probably wonder what he could have said to Clinton. A  one-way conversation seemed more likely, with the young senator lending his ears.  Clinton might have found him eager to support US global policies and programs, whether or not he becomes  president.


One program could be “reproductive health.”  Aware of the strong moral and constitutional opposition to the RH bill in Congress, Clinton had wisely steered away from the subject in her public statements here.  But she remains firmly committed to propagating reproductive health around the world. As she told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives “reproductive health” includes access to abortion, and the Obama administration is resolved to abolish all obstacles to such access around the world.


Noynoy is a proud supporter of the RH bill, even though, like so many others, he has shown very little or no understanding at all of the constitutional, ethical and anthropological issues involved.  He says women should be free to choose, completely unaware that they are already free to choose----no law prohibits them  from contracepting or getting sterilized. Then he says the State should provide contraceptives and sterilization services to everyone, completely unaware that  this is not constitutionally possible---the Constitution says the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. 


Like his friends in the RH lobby, the young senator obviously sees no contradiction in the State on one hand protecting the unborn from the moment of conception and the State on the other hand running a contraceptives and sterilization program whose purpose is to prevent women from conceiving. 


Face to face with the formidable Hillary Clinton, did Noynoy not reaffirm his support for the US RH policy and promise to pursue it should he ever become president?  Or did Clinton choose not to discuss it at all, given her guest’s limitations?   US National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200, however, commands the US President and Secretary of State never to let any opportunity pass without taking up the population issue---now codenamed reproductive health---when meeting with foreign leaders.


Hillary does not owe us a statement, but Noynoy Aquino clearly does. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chiz soufflé?

The press was quite exhuberant in saying that Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero “rearranged the political landscape” when he bolted the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) on the day he was to proclaim his presidential bid under that party, said a mouthful about political parties, and left his supporters clueless on his next move as a once-declared presidential aspirant for 2010.

Indeed, he would have done so had he declared himself an independent candidate after leaving his party. But he stopped halfway. As things stand, Chiz’s bold move altered the political landscape only to the extent that a crumbling cheese soufflé disfigures itself without affecting anybody else except the person who has to eat it.

Thanks largely to media’s apparent fascination with him, one news headline screamed, “Chiz junks NPC, Danding” instead of the other way around. Clearly it was the NPC and its founder Danding Cojuangco who had spurned Chiz when they rejected his bid, or decided not to field a presidential candidate at all.

Chiz ought to have foreseen the perils of campaigning for votes outside his party long before the party had formally decided to field him as its candidate. Of course, he was not alone in that egregious course; as a rule, our presidential and even vice-presidential wannabes nominate themselves instead of allowing themselves to be nominated by others. But unlike the others, Chiz did not own nor control his party.

Neither did he exert enough effort to make his party play by the rules. For instance, in 2007, it did not matter to him that while he, Loren Legarda, Sonny Osmeña and Nikki Coseteng were running as NPC candidates on the Genuine Opposition (GO) senatorial ticket, two other NPC members---Tessie Aquino Oreta and Tito Sotto---were running on the administration’s Team Unity (TU) slate.

A more sensitive partymember would have protested that arrangement, which threw away all party rules. He could have resigned from the party then, and it would have been a principled move. But none of those involved in that farce did or said anything about it. In a sense, Chiz’s party resignation was one election too late.

Chiz might have assumed that given his impressive and costly performance in that---his first----senatorial election (he got 18 million out of close to 40 million votes), sustained temporarily by some superficial surveys, he had become ripe for the highest office, and that his party would simply have to concede his point. But he had assumed wrongly, it turns out.

Topping one or several senatorial elections has never guaranteed winning the presidency or even being picked as a party’s official candidate. Look at Jovy Salonga. Before our voters started putting all sorts of jokers in the Senate, Salonga habitually topped the senatorial polls. But when he finally ran for president as “Mr. Incorruptible,” he ended behind Imelda Marcos, who merely took a tourist bus to shake a few hands here and there, without ever making a single serious campaign speech.

Look also at Sen. Mar Roxas. Since his first Senate run under President Arroyo in 2001, he had been preparing to become president. Even his recent marriage was said to have been originally intended to improve his chances. But everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and he is now running simply as Noynoy Aquino’s teammate.

Chiz might have believed that just because the youth of the country outnumber their elders, his youthfulness was enough to propel him to the highest office. Indeed, many seemed convinced that his ability to say everything every young person likes to hear on any given issue gave him a decisive edge over the others. But many find his record a bit too thin for the office.

The presidency demands some maturity and experience. Chiz has every right to mature under stress in order to become the most suitable material for president. Unhappily, his test came last week, and he found himself in what chess players call a zugzwang---an untenable situation where one has no choice but to make a bad move. He ended saying things no one with half his brains would have said to a political science class for pinheads.

“I am leaving my party because I believe that I can fulfill the role that I am bound to play in connection with the coming elections…not as a member of any party or a companion of any person, but as just me….” One’s political party should be the party of all Filipinos, and one’s party mates should be all Filipinos.

This is arrant nonsense. It is not the same as Manuel L. Quezon’s oft-quoted, “My party ends where my country begins.” In an electoral democracy, the party answers to the people for the kind of men and women it runs for public office. To insist that no party should be owned by any one individual and function like a basketball team is to insist on educating the politicians and the electorate alike. But to suggest that parties as a rule are a negative influence upon government and should be discarded is to replace centuries of political theory and praxis with a demagogue’s conceit. All of us are capable of making the most outlandish mistakes, but no one of Chiz Escudero’s promise deserves to make that mistake.

GMA for Vice-President? Don’t scoff at it

Because of the rash of defections plaguing the ruling party, the opposition may be tempted to dismiss President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as a spent force. That would be a big mistake. She is still very much in the game, and the opposition cannot take anything for granted.

The earlier spin was that Mrs. Arroyo would run for Congress, seek the Speakership if she wins, and push for a constitutional shift to parliamentary government and become its prime minister. Even under extremely favorable conditions, that looked like a very long shot.

But conditions are not favorable now, and the old assumptions may no longer hold. Between now and the May 10, 2010 elections, many congressmen would have changed their political affiliations and alignments; they could return to Congress with the same old habits, but a change in the presidency may not leave certain congressional practices unchanged.

Mrs. Arroyo could win a House seat in Pampanga hands down, but winning the Speakership could be something else. I would not worry about it too much; I would worry more about her running for Vice-President, despite Lakas-Kampi’s badly diminished ranks.

Although the idea was first floated rather petulantly by Rep. Danny Suarez of Quezon Province, it does not look like he did it on his own just to spice up the political gossip. It seems more likely that the idea had been incubating within the administration for some time, and Suarez was simply allowed to leak it. All previous talk about GMA running in Pampanga, fueled by her constant visits to Lubao, may have been intended solely to mislead some sociology professors and the press.

The apparent inspiration is the Putin model. This refers to Vladimir Putin who, at the end of his term as president of Russia, opted to become prime minister to his protégé, President Dmitry Medvedev, whom the Western media like to depict (unfairly in my view) as Putin’s shadow or stooge.

In Russia as in the Philippines, the real power is lodged in the president. But a former president who becomes prime minister, whether or not his name is Putin, and a former president who becomes vice-president, whatever his name, are likely to project more power and influence than they actually wield. In Singapore, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew continues to project such power and influence long after he had stepped down to become senior minister.

This alone should not make us lose sleep. But there would be nothing innocuous in GMA running for vice-president. Especially since it coincides with the shift to automated voting which has raised serious concerns about the real possibility of the system failing, resulting in the inability of the Commission on Elections to proclaim any winners.

By June 30, 2010, all incumbent national and local officials shall have ended their term, except for the 12 senators whose term began in 2007 and ends in 2013. If by then no president and other national officials shall have been elected and qualified, a power vacuum would have occurred. That could prompt Mrs. Arroyo to try and hold over, which is not provided in the Constitution. The military could decide to support her, as they have done so until now, or they could take over on their own, without her, as “the protector of the people and the State.”

But what happens if Mrs. Arroyo runs and is elected vice-president while the Comelec is unable to proclaim a new president-elect and other elected national officials? Under the Constitution, the Vice-President-elect becomes the acting President until the President shall have been elected and qualified. But the Constitution sets no deadline for the election and qualification of the President.

All this, of course, is purely hypothetical. It could happen, but I am not saying it would. Still the mere possibility of it occurring is enough to make some people climb walls. For despite GMA’s badly eroded trust rating, her ability to use the legal and extra-legal powers and resources of the presidency is unequalled and undisputed.

What then should the opposition do? The most intelligent thing for them to do would be to meet GMA head-on by fielding their most popular bets for vice-president. Assuming the reported surveys are real and correct, Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas could exchange places so that Noynoy, rather than Mar, should take on GMA, while Manny Villar could probably persuade former President Joseph (Erap) Estrada to sacrifice his own presidential bid and become his running mate instead.

This may sound absurd to the parties concerned, but it may be the only way of preventing a great calamity afflicting the land. It may also be the only way to help Noynoy Aquino rid himself of those strident, unenlightened and irreverent critics who have the temerity to proclaim that his being the modest son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino of happy memory and the even more modest brother of Kris Aquino of popular entertainment tv is not enough basis for him to want to become president of this benighted country. It may also be the only way to help Erap get out of a second presidential run that seems to lack all the promise of his first successful run and which he may not be psychologically prepared to lose.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How ABS-CBN Misled The Public On The Poll Count

Because of the unduly large role being played by the polling agencies in choosing national and even local candidates, I am rerunning this article that first appeared during the 2004 presidential elections to help the reader gain a sober and intelligent perspective on the credibility of these agencies. A related material on the SWS survey on reproductive health also appears on this blog.

FST Documentary Service
All inquiries to Sen. Kit Tatad, Tel. No. 9283627



On May 10, 2004, after the counting of votes at the precincts, ABS-CBN began broadcasting a Quick Count. There was no attempt on the part of government to stop it. That would occur much later, when the Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice stopped ABC-Channel 5 from conducting its own count, and ordered the Daily Tribune not to carry ads containing hitherto unpublished election results supplied by the Opposition.

As of 4 a.m. of May 11, 2004, the first 1.224 million votes counted were distributed as follows:

NCR --- 20.46 percent
Luzon ---39.60 percent
Visayas ---18.58 percent
Mindanao ---21.36 percent

These were shared as follows:

Candidate National NCR Luzon Visayas Mindanao

FPJ 480,207 100,486 212,098 62,518 114,105
GMA 466,294 70,182 157,527 143,470 95,107
LACSON 202,929 56,954 80,452 18,655 46,858
ROCO 93,100 22,245 45.045 13,570 12,239
VILLANUEVA 102,249 27,102 40.973 13,254 20,920

At this time of day, Mr. Mahar Mangahas appeared at ABS-CBN to deliver the first results of the ABS-CBN/SWS exit poll. Based on 528 NCR respondents, this poll reported the following findings, as of 2:30 a.m.

GMA -------------- 31 percent
FPJ --------------- 23 percent
LACSON—------- 20 percent
VILLANUEVA—10 percent
ROCO-------------- 8 percent
NO ANSWER----- 7 percent

Notice the big difference between the Quick Count’s figure and this one. Yet the votes of SWS’s 528 respondents tried to reverse the impact of the 276,969 NCR voters who had put FPJ ahead of GMA by at least 30,304 votes. In the SWS survey, FPJ was now 8 percent behind.

Mangahas did not find his NCR poll conclusive. In a text message to Ms. Susan Tagle, FPJ’s communications aide, received at 3:30 a.m. of May 11, 2004, Mangahas said:

“Frm Mahar: Sori 2 disappoint. She has lead, but inconclusiv sins many kept silent. Ds is ncr only. On d way to abs now. “

Despite such inconclusiveness, he submitted the results anyway.

Given the wide discrepancy between its own Quick Count and the SWS survey, ABS-CBN management did not quite know how to proceed. They could not possibly present to the public two sets of conflicting data and still claim any credibility. According to inside informants, Mr. Dong Puno could not decide, so they woke up Mr. Gaby Lopez at 5:30 a.m. But Mr. Lopez himself could see no way out either.

Someone then proposed that the Quick Count be made to support the thrust of the SWS survey, which would eventually show GMA leading FPJ nationwide. They proposed to revise the geographic distribution of the vote count, by increasing the percentage for the Visayas (where GMA was leading FPJ) and bringing down the percentage for NCR, Luzon and Mindanao (where she was trailing FPJ).

The proposed new distribution was as follows:

NCR --- 18.38 percent
LUZON --- 35.84 percent
VISAYAS --- 26.05 percent
MINDANAO— 19.73 percent

This proposal was accepted, and Mr. Lopez immediately left for the United States.

At 7:18 a.m. same day, the Quick Count showed the following results:

Candidate National NCR Luzon Visayas Mindanao

GMA 587,027 76,893 168,555 237,616 103,963
FPJ 562,976 105,646 229,033 102,709 125,588
LACSON 231,195 60,273 88,685 29,525 52,712
ROCO 109,902 24,270 47,925 24,150 13,557
VILLANUEVA 122,881 29,618 44,211 26,406 22,646

Just by readjusting the geographic distribution of the count, GMA was able to wipe out her deficit of 22,903 votes at the 4 a.m. report, and post a lead of 24,051 votes at the 7:18 a.m. count. This tends to show that GMA had posted an additional 46,954 votes while FPJ posted zero. In reality, neither the votes nor the margins in NCR, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao changed; only the percentage distribution of the votes did. Perception of reality changed, but not reality itself.

As of 7:18 a.m. of May 11, the Quick Count had counted a total 1,613,981 actual votes for all the presidential candidates. In this count, FPJ led GMA in NCR, Luzon, and Mindanao. The only place where GMA led FPJ was the Visayas whose percentage share of the count had been changed, from 18.58 to 26.05 percent.

At 1:00 p.m. of the same day, however, the SWS exit poll, using a base of 4,627 respondents, reported the following results:

Candidate National NCR N/Cen. Luzon So. Luzon Visayas Mindanao

GMA 41% 31% 32% 24% 62% 50%
FPJ 32 23 41 38 21 35
LACSON 9 20 9 11 4 5
ROCO 5 8 2 11 3 2
VILLANUEVA 5 10 5 6 2 4
NO ANSWER 8 7 11 9 7 4

Notice that GMA now leads FJP everywhere, except Luzon.

This trend has since migrated to the Namfrel count.

Namfrel has clearly adopted the same formula used by ABS-CBN and SWS. Simply by concentrating its Quick Count on areas where GMA has more votes than FPJ, while delaying the count in bigger areas where FPJ is leading GMA by wide margins, it is able to show GMA leading FPJ across the nation.

Thus, as of 4 p.m., May 17, Namfrel already counted 1.68 million or 51.13 percent of the 3.29 million votes of Region VII, while counting only 1.19 million of Metro Manila’s 6.9 million votes, and an average of 22.12 percent for the other regions..

In Central Luzon, where FPJ’s advantage was never disputed, except in Mrs. Arroyo’s home province of Pampanga, the same Namfrel report showed Mrs. Arroyo leading FPJ, 693,461 to 252,794. The only possible explanation was that the votes were taken mostly, if not entirely, from Pampanga.

This manipulation of public perceptions need not automatically affect the integrity of the entire data, if there were no attempt to change the same. But it is precisely part of the operation to alter the data. Once the trend is accepted, even the most militant would tend to drop their guard, and accept anything that follows, even if it was the result of invention or fraud.

The twin motu proprio orders of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Elections stopping the independent broadcast by ABC-Channel 5 of the results of elections, and the refusal by the pro-Arroyo newspapers to carry paid advertisements by the KNP containing hitherto unreported results of the elections, followed now by the Comelec order to the Daily Tribune not to carry the same ads – all these must be seen in this light. They are an integral part of the effort to steal the elections.

In the past, such attack on press freedom and the right of the people to be informed on matters of public concern would have ignited a rebellion in the ranks of the press. Not now. The mainstream media, both print and broadcast, have chosen to look the other way, while two of their own must fight for their freedoms. This shows the depth of the sinful collaboration between so many media owners and the administration. This has become the gravest danger to the democratic system.


After The Floods (Part 2)

In 1987, the surveys predicted a clean 24-0 sweep for Cory Aquino’s senatorial ticket. When the initial results came, only one opposition candidate ----Joseph Ejercito Estrada----made it. I was tear-gassed at EDSA for protesting the results. Seeking a safer course, I went to a forum in Washington, DC with a few other Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) candidates to present a paper showing that nine to ten of us should have won in an honest count. Then Sen. Jesse Helms, who was in the audience, was moved to react with a choice epithet against the Cory government. Within days, our second GAD candidate, Juan Ponce Enrile, joined the winning slate.

In 1992, the surveys counted me out of the senatorial race. Yet at the first hour of the national count at La Salle Greenhills, I was in the top four. After a while, the lights went out. When the power returned, I was already No. 26. Undaunted, I looked for someone who could help me staunch the ongoing hemmorhage. A friendly soul appeared. Within three days, I was back on the winning slate. My archangel prevented me from being written off, but he said I had lost three years of my rightful term. In that election, the first 12 senators served for six years, the next 12 for three.

Just before the Senate convened, I attended a Tagaytay seminar organized by Sen. Edgardo Angara for newly elected senators. There appeared Mahar Mangahas to tell us, citing his own SWS survey, that if a senator did not support the government’s family planning program, he would not get reelected. Then he said: “You see, Senator Tatad, there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote.” Then added, he was not interested in what I had to say.

I pointed out that in a Catholic country, where most candidates are Catholic, there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. But try running a candidate whose program is to destroy the Catholic Church, and you’ll have a Catholic vote against that candidate.

For the next three years I became one of the most visible Filipino senators at home and abroad. As Senate Majority Leader I pushed all the legislative priorities of the Ramos government. I spoke to every national issue, and my speeches in the Senate and in international conferences were read and listened to at home and abroad. But as the 1995 elections neared, a Malacanang general was reported to have started working in Mindanao to frustrate my reelection bid. I did not realize it then, as I do now, that this had to do with my strong opposition to the population control program dictated by powerful external forces.

President Fidel Ramos had to convene a special meeting to address this particular development. There he assured me he would fix it. But as the campaign neared, I saw that I was being prepared to be sacrificed. At the candidates’ weekly dinner at the President’s Arlegui residence, we were presented a running “survey” that showed some virtually unknown newcomers rating so high, while I was not rating at all.

When finally I asked some questions, the presentor could not answer me with any degree of intelligence. I could no longer restrain myself. At the next dinner, the President and his Executive Secretary came up to me to congratulate me for having “finally made it.” I do not recall giving a very polite reply. I ended No. 8 in the race, although one column item said I should have ended No. 2 at the very least, if I were only “pro-choice.”

In 2004, men, women and children danced to my jingle on the road, volunteers said they were already working for me even before I could ask them to help. It was my best national campaign. But the surveys had marked me for defeat. In one Mindanao province, I was ranking No. 4 in the municipal count, but dropped to No. 19 in the national count. One governor-friend could only say after the event, “Pasensiya na, ikaw lang talaga ang pinakiusap na huwag na huwag payagang makalusot.”

On May 10, 2004, SWS conducted an exit poll of the presidential race for ABS-CBN. At the same time, the network was doing a Quick Count. In Metro Manila, the exit poll showed Mrs. Arroyo leading, while the Quick Count showed Fernando Poe Jr. ahead. Since ABS-CBN could not come out with two conflicting results, they had to inject votes from the Visayas (where GMA was leading) into the Manila count, where she was behind, to harmonize the results. (My original 2004 article on this is now posted on my blog: httip//

Last year, SWS ran a survey on the reproductive health (RH) bill. The questions were all skewed, meant to bring in 100 percent support for the bill, which neither the respondents nor even all the congressmen had read. It did not get the 100 percent. The pro-RH pollsters continue to cite their own surveys to claim that the Filipino Catholic majority does not care about the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of the family and human life. Yet the biggest vote-getter among the partylist parties in Congress is Buhay, the Filipino word for “Life.”

We need not take any political survey at face value. The polling business needs more upright men, and as much urgent reform as our retrograde politics.

After The Floods (Part 1)

Amid the deaths, devastation and human suffering caused by the great floods from the two back-to-back tropical storms that recently hit Metro Manila, its environs and northern Luzon, at least three things stand out.

First, the government’s complete unpreparedness for a major emergency. Second, a real capacity for human goodness, heroism and courage on the part of so many Filipinos. Third, a savage bursting of the political bubble which the propaganda pollsters and political publicists had been trying to hype since Cory Aquino died from colon cancer and thousands joined her funeral cortege.

There was no sign of government anywhere in the first few hours of the floods. But that did not dampen anybody’s will to survive. The radio-tv anchors took over with labored calm as the flood victims fought for their lives, and every good Samaritan did what they could without cursing the rain, the dams or the rubber boats and helicopters that were not there. The tragedy brought out the best in everyone. “Where I’m from, everyone’s a hero,” says one T-shirt that went around after the floods.

The disaster also washed away all the political debris that had clogged the symbolic waterway to Malacanang since Senator Noynoy Aquino boldly jackknifed into it wrapped in the yellow ribbons that had rained around his mother’s casket. Providence has strange ways of undoing men’s follies.

This, however, is only a respite at best. As soon as the rescue and rehabilitation work stabilizes, the pollsters and propagandists will be back at their old game, trying to condition everyone’s mind to create a bandwagon for or against certain presidential and senatorial wannabes.

To its credit, Lakas-Kampi, the administration party, despite its known and inherent liabilities, has chosen its presidential bet on the basis of his qualifications rather than his “survey ratings.” This is as it should be. In mature polities, the party chooses someone who deserves to win, then works hard to make him win. In our case, however, the parties choose someone whom the “survey” says is “winnable” (pardon this terrible usage), even though he may be a non compos mentis or a rake.
The choosing process has been thoroughly debased. Not even our political pundits have been able to avoid this derangement. They have no problem citing unverified and unverifiable “surveys” to say who is “popular” and who is not; they show no interest in finding out whether the survey is real or rigged, or completely fabricated, and whether their supposedly popular rock star is covered in silk or totally naked.

Even in a real survey, the questions could be so framed as to elicit a pre-determined response. The pollsters could be polling “samples” (respondents) who know nothing or next to nothing about the personalities they are asked to rate. We saw this in the surveys that tried to show enormous support for the “reproductive health” bill in Congress, which none of the “samples” had obviously read.

We saw this too when a new military bases agreement was being negotiated with the US. At that time, one survey outfit tried to show overwhelming support for the bases by polling people who did not know before that the bases existed. In the end, the Senate rejected the treaty, despite Cory Aquino’s support for it, and those who who voted against it became instant “heroes.”

In the present political “surveys, only the pollsters know whether the “samples” are real, and whether (assuming real) they know anything about the requirements of the presidency and the real capability and competence of their choices. One problem I have is that I have yet to meet someone who has met anyone who has been interviewed by anybody in connection with an opinion poll in the last 20 years.

What Disraeli, Churchill and somebody else before them had said endures---“there are lies, damn lies and statistics.” In our case, there are lies, damn lies, and opinion surveys. This is not to say we should ban surveys altogether. Like companies before launching a new product, politicians need to test the market before they plunge in. But we should reject all surveys meant for sheer mind-conditioning, to create a bandwagon for or against certain personalities.

What can we do? First, insist on the objectivity and impartiality of the process and those running it. No pollster should at the same time be an opinion writer or broadcaster or an advocate of anything that becomes the subject of their surveys. They should refrain from claiming that the opinion of 1,200 to 2,000 “samples” represents the opinion of the entire country. They should simply say that out of 1,200 or 2,000 respondents, a certain number or percentage expressed preference for A, B, C, D, instead of claiming that, say, 30 percent of 1,200 to 2000 respondents means 30 percent of the entire country.

There are always serious consequences when a political survey is rigged, or suspected of having been rigged to create a bandwagon for or against certain personalities, or worse, to create a template for the cheating that attends every flawed election in the country. For years I have tried to rid myself of such suspicions, but sadly without any success.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

The death of the Nobel Peace Prize?

I was at a peace-building conference in Bangkok a few days after the mega floods from tropical storm Odyong had begun to subside in Metro Manila when the second storm Pepeng battered northern Luzon. As the new devastation and death toll rose, I got a distress message from Manila:

“So many deaths from flooding and landslides in Benguet, Pangasinan and Tarlac. And now President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. End of the world na yata. (Looks like it’s the end of the world already.)”

To which I somberly replied, “Just the end of the Nobel Peace Prize maybe, thank God.”

I spoke to the conference before BBC and CNN reported Obama’s award. In my remarks, I argued that for us to rid the world of conflicts between and among nations, we must first resolve deep conflicts between the closest neighbors; and none could be closer than the mother and her unborn child. There cannot be real peace so long as enmity exists for the unborn child.

Many governments have legalized the murder of the unborn. And President Obama has fueled this carnage by authorizing the use of US funds to support abortion in developing countries. For her part Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proclaimed that “reproductive health includes access to abortion” and that the US was determined to abolish all barriers to such access.

My reference to abortion stirred a hornet’s nest. The next speaker, a lady Member of Parliament, discarded her prepared text to respond to my “attack” on the “right” to abortion. Many delegates thanked me later for my statement.

Apart from the Nobel committee itself, no one of consequence has praised Obama’s award. Even in Oslo, where the award is handed out in December, the negative opinion polled higher than the positive. Newsweek, in its Oct. 19, 2009 issue, put Obama on its cover, with the words: “He doesn’t deserve the prize.”

The common complaint is that Obama’s bold sally into international diplomacy has consisted mainly of talk and talk and talk, and that he is being medalled for winning a race he has not even entered yet. The award is the artificially induced fruit of what one US magazine has called “the selling and selling and selling of Barack Obama.”

“If, for a pregnant instance, he manages to negotiate a nonviolent transition to an Iran that has nuclear power but not nuclear weapons (and that perhaps allows its own people to intervene in their own internal affairs)---then he will have done very well, and will deserve much more than a medal and a large check,” writes Christopher Hitchens in Newsweek.

But there is another take. Even if Obama renounced America’s nuclear arms themselves, he would still not deserve a bronze medal for peace if he continued funding the killing of unborn children around the world. He, along with many others, could instead be held under the terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of Dec. 9, 1948, which regards “measures intended to prevent births” within a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as “genocide.”

The Nobel committee will recall that when it awarded Mother Teresa the same prize in 1979, the saint of Calcutta responded by reminding the world that “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing --- direct murder by the mother herself.” No more glaring contradiction could probably exist----a peace prize to a saintly soul who had devoted all her life trying to infect the world with love for every human being, born and unborn, and the same prize to a US president whose first official act was to put American taxpayers’ monies at the service of abortion around the world.

What Obama could still achieve in international diplomacy may have already been undone by that single act against the sanctity of the family and human life. It mocks every solemn and stirring word he has ever uttered about truth, freedom, justice, human rights and human dignity since his inaugural as the first African-American president of the United States.

In that inaugural, he reaffirmed the ideals of America’s founding fathers and the God-given promise that “all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” He assured everyone from the grandest capital to the small village where his father was born, that “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.”

He has not allowed anyone to forget that he is the son of a man who might not have been served at a local restaurant less than 60 years ago. Yet he has not hesitated to export a policy that effectively reduces every unborn human being to the status of his earlier forebear, Dred Scott, whom the US Supreme Court could not recognize as a human being, but only as an article of commerce to be bought and sold for profit, 142 years ago.

Around the world abortion kills millions of unborn children each year. Obama’s active promotion of it outside the US does not make him or his America a great friend to anybody anywhere. It makes him and her a great danger to God-fearing Americans and to everybody else everywhere.

15 October 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Role of Parliamentarians in Achieving UN MDGs and Peace Building in Asia

*** note from blog administrator: the author of this blog was invited to speak at a leadership conference in bangkok, thailand less than a week ago. posted below is his address at the conference.


 The Role of Parliamentarians in Achieving UN MDGs

and Peace Building in Asia


Francisco S. Tatad

Former Senator, Republic of the Philippines


Delivered before the First Asian Parliamentarian Leadership Conference on Peace, Emerald Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 9, 2009


My assigned task in this conference is to examine the role of parliamentarians in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Peace Building in Asia.  The two objectives are inter-related, for indeed the other name of development is peace; without peace there can be no true human development.  


At the 2000 Millennium Summit, the international community agreed to eight MDGs----  1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;. 2) achieve universal primary education;. 3) promote gender equality; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health;. 6) combat malaria; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; 8) develop a global partnership for development. 


These were reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit. 


Not a single one of these goals is new.  They are as old as the liberal democratic state. What is new is the firm resolve to mobilize  every moral resolve and every material resource to turn back, if not altogether end, human poverty and inequality within the lifetime of this generation.  


It is an extremely ambitious project. A casual look at the landscape, however, provides us little reason to hope that we would  exceed our targets by the year 2015.   The record of the 111th Congress of the United States alone shows that  from the beginning of this year until the first part of  September , only one bill---the Serve America Act---has passed both Houses of Congress, out of a total of 37 MDG-related measures filed.  What about our own parliaments and  congresses?


They will have to  enact all the MDG-related programs and policies.  But hand in hand with that, they will have to make sure that those programs and policies put man and his love of truth, freedom, justice and peace at the center, not at the far fringe, of all development.  For there is a great worldly temptation to regard all development associated with technological progress as the pure triumph of  man’s genius alone.  This tends to  unhinge many of us  from our First and Last End, instead reconnecting us ever more firmly to our natural origin and our supernatural end, to the source of all knowledge, all wisdom and all inventions, to Him who, as Benedict XVI reminds us in Caritas In Veritate, commanded man at the dawn of  creation  to do technology----to till and keep the land.


Even peace, the Pope reminds us, now runs the risk of being considered a technical product,  the mere outcome of technical agreements that calculate mutual self-interest and self-advantages rather than the outpouring of truth and justice based on our respect and love for one another  as children of the same God.


Poor countries, hobbled by their chronic inadequacy of resources, exacerbated by the global economic downturn,  not to mention the unmitigated impact  of political corruption, natural calamities and man-made disasters, as in the mega floods that recently hit Metro Manila and environs and have just returned to northern Luzon even as we speak, could find themselves demoralized by their lack of deployable resources and technological progress and may seek to procure both by putting their deepest moral, cultural and religious values at risk.


Parliamentarians must assert their moral and political ascendancy  and point out that that is always an unfair and onerous exchange, a swindle if ever there was one, where the human being loses everything and gains nothing. Man is both matter and spirit; he is not to be split between the two parts so that one part may be sacrificed for the other. The development of peoples, as Benedict’s Caritas points out, is not merely a technical matter.  It is not simply a matter of financial engineering, the freeing up of markets, the removal of tariffs, investment in production, and institutional reforms. Development includes the ethical building up and nurturing of upright men and women who should be at the frontline in our  effort to serve the common good. 


The MDGs, properly interpreted and pursued, could raise  our peoples to new heights.  But they could also be corrupted,  perverted and misused for certain ideological or political ends and end up with toxic and harmful results. We need only look at what’s happening with MDG 5---namely, to improve maternal health----to see what I mean.


At the surface there is  nothing controversial about  it.   Mothers have long deserved it.  They need not die during pregnancy or childbirth. They also need not die when they are not pregnant or giving birth. But far more women die  from the major diseases than from anything associated with pregnancy or childbirth.   Nonetheless the MDGs do not seem terribly concerned about this. Rather they seem totally committed to MDG 5 to the exclusion of the major women killers, even though the problem could be competently addressed by providing adequate, basic obstetrics services without neglecting the more deadly diseases.


It appears that one agenda riding on  MDG 5 not necessarily seeks to save mothers from death or disease, although that is not an unwelcome consequence, but rather seeks to save women from becoming mothers. Abortion appears to have become the foremost prescription against maternal death. This is promoted by international civil servants at the UN who claim that international law has made abortion a basic woman’s right. This is unhappily boosted by US President Barack Obama’s order authorizing the use of US funds to support abortion in developing countries, and by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement to  the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives that reproductive health includes access to abortion and that the US is resolved to remove all obstacles to such access. 


Parliamentarians everywhere must find the courage to say this is wrong. No global UN treaty contains the word “abortion.” Therefore no right to abortion may be inferred from any such document. They must now call upon the UN to adhere strictly to the true spirit of the MDGS and the letter and spirit of its treaties. They must find the courage to tell the UN that the best way to achieve MDG 5 is to put in adequate and competent obstetrics care, just as fastest way to achieve MDG 4, reduce child mortality, is to outlaw and penalize abortion in the same manner that the law of nations outlaws and punishes genocide.    


Parliamentarians everywhere must now stand together in defense of the most helpless and the most innocent who are destroyed routinely by unjust laws.  In every single one of those lives we see a unique and incomparable gift that can only come from God.   No one has a right to destroy it, or even knock it.  In every other kind of gift-giving, the recipient must first exist in order to receive the gift from the giver.  In the gift of life, however, the gift, which is life, creates the one who receives it; in the process the recipient becomes the gift himself.


We must read our commitment to the MDGs or to any political, economic or social program within the framework of this profound mystery, no less than our own respective constitutions and cultures. Only then will the MDGs rise to the true meaning of development.


All over Asia today there persist conflicts internal to certain countries or affecting neighbors bound by common borders. They have long defied an easy solution. They demand a new vision of peace which the contending parties should be able to share. Where governments remain in stalemate, parliamentarians, businessmen, civic leaders, humanitarian peace workers and plain citizens could begin building human bridges that communicate solidarity, self-giving and goodwill without attempting to play on the weakness of others.


But over and above all these conflicts that disfigure relations among peoples and nations, there is one conflict that precedes all, one that cries to the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all men for a permanent solution. It is the conflict between the forces of life and light and the forces of death and darkness----the conflict between the life-forbidders and the unborn. 


There must be peace, not enmity, between those who exercise power over others and those who lie powerless inside their mother’s womb. If there is to be peace anywhere at all, it must begin with the closest neighbors. And none could be closer than the fetus and its mother. The killing of those helpless innocents must stop, and we stand a good chance of making it happen if we could but make the world see that human life is not a piece of private property where we who sit inside could keep everyone else out. 


A new vision of peace should allow us not only to look at all men as brothers but above all to look at each one as his brother’s keeper. Their being brothers did not prevent Cain from slaying Abel, as Scripture tells us, but would he have committed the same vile murder  had he known, had he believed, that he was his brother’s keeper?  I wonder.


The work of peace, the gift of peace, needs men and women who cannot look at the face of their enemy, if any human being may yet be so described, without seeing themselves  or the face of their own Maker.  The formula is not new. It is as old as the Gospel,  yet as  the Gospel new. It is a solution waiting for courageous souls to make it happen.


Will it work? History provides the answer.


At the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies in Oslo in 1993, two men who had fought each other all their adult lives stood side by side to receive the world’s applause after they had embraced in peace. From the lips of Nelson Mandela came these words:


“He (referring to his old archenemy, South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk) had the courage to admit that a terrible wrong had been done to our country and people through the imposition of apartheid. He had the foresight to understand and accept that all the people of South Africa must, through negotiations and as equal participants in the process, together determine what they want to make of the future.”


And from the lips of de Klerk we heard:


“We needed a fundamental change---a change of heart on both sides. It was not a sudden change, but a process---a process of introspection, of soul-searching, of repentance, of realization of the futility of ongoing conflict, of acknowledgment of failed policies and the injustice it brought with it.”


A couple of years ago  I sat with President de Klerk at a conference in Doha and listened to him put it even more simply than he did to his Nobel Peace Prize audience.  Asked how he finally decided to end apartheid, he said, “All I had to do was put myself in the shoes of the other fellows and ask myself why they wanted what they wanted.” That did it.


Let me end with something woven from ancient lore.  It is told that one day Patanjali and Lo Tzu were walking in the forest when the river began to rise.  Not wanting to get wet, Patanjali began  to walk on the water. But Lao Tzu pulled him back.  “No need to cross,” he said. “This side is also the  other.”


 A new vision for peace, I believe, must help us see this side is also the other.  Thank you very much.