February 27, 2010 Issue
On the Cover: Senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla
(With eight-page, full-color supplement)
Cover story c/o Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre
1.Too Many Cooks
The amalgamation of ideas from various civil-society groups, politicians and volunteers leads to an internal “struggle of perspective” in the campaign of Benigno Aquino III. Now, Florencio Abad, Liberal Party campaign manager, says the camp is brainstorming the effects of the way Aquino’s political strategists and handlers are running the show on his campaign, especially in the wake of Manuel Villar’s catching up with him in the polls. Apparently, the conservatives, among them the former senior government officials who broke away from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 after it became known that she might not have been elected, have had too much say on Aquino’s campaign. They thought there was no need for Aquino to run a “traditional campaign,” Abad says, because it was a “people’s campaign” and people “will go out of their way” for Aquino. As it has turned out, the Liberals need to do it the harder way, including a door-to-door campaign, to get the vote out. The “Cory magic” is still there, but it will not work if you do not fire it. So now Aquino is taking over to run his own campaign and pull away from Villar. The main problem is how to counter Villar’s big-time spending on TV ads, the strategy that has catapulted the Nacionalista candidate to the very front line. And, of course, without violating the Comelec’s obsolete rules on campaign spending. Ten pesos per candidate for the entire three-month campaign?
By Wendell Vigilia and Guiller de Guzman
2. Ruling Against Reform
Three recent rulings against reformist local officials have made the Second Division of the Commission on Elections suspect. Did those three commissioners in the division—Nicodemo Ferrer, Elias Yusop and Lucenito Tagle—sell out to the allies of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Pampanga, Isabela and Bulacan? The gubernatorial victories of Catholic priest Eduardo Panlilio of Pampanga, Grace Padaca of Isabela and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan over Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the three provinces have suddenly turned into defeat in vote recounts presided over by the Second Division. It is also this division that has been making those controversial decisions in the qualification of candidates in May’s general elections, including disqualifying a gay-rights party-list group on moral grounds, as if it had never heard of the separation clause, which the Supreme Court threw at the three election officials’ faces. The loss of Padaca and Mendoza in the recount has been suspicious enough, but really suspicious, though it has been widely expected, is Panlilio’s loss to the wife of the alleged jueteng emperor of Pampanga, Mrs. Arroyo’s best friend, Lilia Pineda. Without a party and without money and only with the Pampangans’ determination to reform politics in their province behind him, Panlilio defeated Pineda in 2007. Pineda has been unable to accept that the people of Pampanga’s will has prevailed over her traditional politician’s tactics, and she has been protesting, and has successfully convinced the Second Division that she is the winner. The recount did not include ballots that were burned in a fire in Mabalacat town where Panlilio’s lead over Pineda presumably was also burned. The Second Division is aware of the destruction of the ballots, and yet dismissed all the filings of Panlilio and accepted all those of Pineda, and proceeded with the recount. Now, despite the time allowed for Panlilio to bring a motion for reconsideration, up to the Supreme Court, in fact, Pineda’s camp is in a hurry to put her in the capitol. The reason for the rush is obvious: no reformist and no interfering allies of his must be around to watch the automated vote counters on May 10.
By Guiller de Guzman
3. Defying the Court
Those 43 community health-care workers rounded up by the military in Morong, Rizal, last week could only be communist sympathizers and not combatants or NPA “leaders.” But even if they are actually rebels, they have rights and the military is bound by both domestic and international laws to respect those rights. As the Commission on Human Rights has found, however, the military is handling the suspects like Abu Ghraib prisoners. If it could have its way, the military would ignore the courts, too. It has taken a “general order” from the military chief for the Army to obey a habeas corpus writ from the Supreme Court and produce the suspects before the Court of Appeals on Monday. The excuses offered by the Army for its failure to bring the suspects to court last Friday, defended by in-house rightists in Malacañang, are unacceptable and has erased the credibility of the military in claiming that it respects the rule of law. The Army had six-by-sixes to haul the 43 to its camp, but none to transport them to court? All the officers responsible for that defiance of the court should be called to account. There must be consequences when you defy the highest court of the land, even if you are the military. And the military should explain why it arrested those health-care workers. What is their offense? Treating wounded rebels or rebels ailing from malaria in the hills? That is not against the law. Doctors and nurses may not choose patients.
By Guiller de Guzman
4. Stand by, if by chance space allows: President Arroyo names a new state prosecutor, the one who will prosecute her if suits rain down on her after she leaves Malacañang. Is this constitutional? We doubt it.
By Guiller de Guzman
5. Features (c/o Ricky S. Torre and Erwin T. Romulo)