Mister Hotshot


Arf! Arf!

Barking at two Asian bullies

Acting like a tough guy surrounded by menacing neighbors, the Philippines is now at loggerheads with two Asian bullies – Taiwan up north and Malaysia down south.

Over the weekend, Malacanang rejected a statement issued by Malaysia’s chief peace mediator that Manila is to blame for the stalled peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At the same time, the Philippine government warned Taiwan not to create tension in the Spratly Islands following reports that Taiwan’s defense chief accompanied by a group of lawmakers would fly to the disputed islands this Wednesday, May 7, 2008.

All these threatening barks from our government’s officialdom come at a time when the country is reeling from continuing increases in the prices of fuel, rice and other basic commodities.

With the extent and gravity of our internal problems, adding external woes into our already volatile situation is an act of self-flagellation.

Actually, our officials’ warnings to our neighbors may be barks of self-preservation -- we may not be militarily at par with either Malaysia or Taiwan but we do have a loud, booming voice that can scare even the meanest of bullies.

One such voice is that of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Growling like a fierce Doberman, Miriam warned that the planned visit to the Spratlys this week of Taiwanese Minister of National Defense Tsai Ming-hsien accompanied by 30 to 40 legislators “would constitute a provocative act on the part of Taiwan.”

Then on Sunday, Chief Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol pointedly warned Taiwanese officials not to rock the boat in the Spratlys. “As much as possible there should be no disturbance. If there is, it’s going to be a big problem to all of us. They should remember that many nations are involved here: Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China, the Philippines,” he said.

Meantime, Ramon Montenegro, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, censured Othman Abdul Razak, the chief Malaysian mediator, for making “offensive” statements against the Philippine government that can worsen the peace and order problem in Mindanao.

Othman earlier told Manila to stop insisting on technical points that have snagged the long-awaited peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), referring to the controversial ancestral domain provision on the pending peace agreement.

Othman is pressuring the Arroyo government to immediately decide on the ancestral domain issue and sign a peace pact with the MILF, threatening to pullout the Malaysian peace-keeping group in Mindanao.

It remains to be seen whether the bullies in our neighborhood will be intimidated enough by our voice.

If they think we’re actually toothless and are only good in barking, we better be ready to bare our fangs – even if they’re just diplomatic fangs.

Lest we forget, there are the bigger Chinese panda and American bald eagle in the neighborhood which we can turn to in case the Malaysian orangutan and Taiwanese monkey start making unfriendly gestures.

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The Jamby Horror Show

Hey, hey yo! The telenovela our favorite Senadora Jamby promised us has began with her attorney Ernesto Francisco, Jr. questioning not the legality of her Tita Chito’s last will but that of the latter’s lawyer Enrile Teodoro to act in the deceased’s behalf.

STOP IT!!! Pleads Jamby with the court. Teodoro “is not clothed with the requisite legal personality” to begin distributing her tita’s fortune to her beneficiaries cuz the attorney-client relationship ceased when the client died. Yan ang sabi da.

Follow nyo ang logic? Bakit kaya nag-hire pa ng abogado si Tita Chito (who, by the way, was an abogada de campanilla in her own time) kung wala naman pala itong silbi? Asking, asking, asking…

Rewind to the recent past. A sample of Jamby logic: She wonders why Senadora Pia is fond of racing when “she is not a horse.” In a very poor imitation of Senadora Miriam, she then stages a walk-out cuz she does not want to “deal with a spoiled brat.”

Hohum. Am moved to tears. Ang hirap gumawa ng eksena.

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Are you KIDNEYing Me???

It’s over. As the Arabs would say, its “khalas.” Finito in Spanish. Tapos in Tagalog.

There will be no more transplants of Filipino kidneys to foreign patients, including Saudis and other Arabs who are the biggest customers of Filipino donors.

The Department of Health (DOH) said so last Tuesday.

And that’s not all. The DOH is also planning to ban even Filipino patients from receiving kidneys if the donors are not their relatives.

Sarado na talaga ang market for kidneys – yan ang gusto nilang mangyari.

Are they kidneying, I mean kidding? May kasabihan na, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Ang Pinoy pa!? Eh ang titinik nating mag-paikot-ikot sa batas.

And a hungry stomach knows one way to feed itself – through the sale of its co-organ kidney. Eh kung dalawa nga lamang ang heart ng Pinoy, baka binenta na rin pati yung isang puso.

Yan ang gawa ng mga poor residents ng Baseco compound in Tondo, Manila. There, the men try to outdo each other on who has the longest scar in the side of his body – the scar that would prove that he has undergone operation to remove one of his pair of kidneys for sale to a foreign buyer.

Foreigners with healthy pockets but with ailing kidneys will always find a way to get what they want, especially if there are thousands of donors ready to part with one of their kidneys for as cheap as $1,500 or about 60,000 pesos -- a price 20 times cheaper than those in the United States.

Barya-barya lang yan sa mga foreigners, pero feeling millionaire na dyan ang mga pobre nating kababayan.

Sky’s the limit in the number of ways by which this kidney transplant ban can be circumvented. Kung hindi na pwedeng gawin sa Pilipinas ang kidney transplant, the foreign patient can have the donor flown to another country where the operation can be undertaken. At wa na say ang Philippine government dun.

Pwede ding mag-peke ng dokumento yung foreigner, saying he’s a relative by consanguinity to the kidney donor. Naku, baka dumami ang mga customers for fake birth certificates sa Recto.

Any which way you look at this problem, na human rights violation daw according to the Church and other do-gooders, simple lang ang solusyon: Payamanin ang mahihirap.

Pero syempre, that’s easier said than done.


Consuelo de Bobo

Please lang Jamby, MODERATE your GREED!

Hey guys, your responses about my Jamby entry were overwheeeeelming! Kaya’t heto ang latest chapter sa walang-katapusang dramedy sa buhay ng ating paboritong senadora.

Kawawang Jamby.

Not even a grain of local or imported rice was bequeathed to her by her childless Tita Chito Madrigal Collantes, who passed away last March 24, leaving behind her fabulous fortune to other heirs but she.

Jamby could not believe that she wasn’t even mentioned in her tita’s last will and testament. As in nada, zero, zilch, none! And to make matters worse, even her Tita Chito’s maids got a cool fifty grand each.

Aray! Ouch! Araguy! Kasakit naman, naman...

What made Jamby feel like choking her dear aunt to death again was that Tita Chito gave Jamby’s ate, Chuchu Madrigal Eduque, 40 percent of her residuary estate.

Residuary estate is defined in law dictionaries as what is left of an estate after debts, taxes, expenses, and specified gifts have been paid and distributed. It is often the largest portion.

The rest of Collantes’ fortune went to the billionaire’s husband, former Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel Collantes; a grandchild, Vicente P. Gustav Warns; and a niece, Gizela M. Gonzalez-Montinola, whose husband, Bank of the Philippine Islands president Aurelio Montinola, executed Collantes’ will two years ago.

Jamby was not included in Collantes’ will because the late socialite kuno already spent hundreds of million pesos for her failed bid for a Senate seat in 2001 and in her successful campaign in 2004.

Yun naman pala, buhay pa si Tita Chito, nag-advance na ng bienes. Di naman pala kawawa ang pamangking ipinangalan after the iconic socialite!

Dumbo Jumbo – este, Jamby -- of all people, should understand this. But no, she won’t. She’s not in the mood for understanding dead people’s past acts.

“Ang isyu dito hustisya at prinsipyo. Hindi pera ang habol ko dito,” ang sabi ng kuripot na senadora na butas ang sapatos pero gahigante ang mga suot na South Sea pearl earrings, necklace at brooch.

Oh, really? You’re not after the money? Then why grumble and grouse?

So what are you after, Jamby? What justice and principle are you talking about when, instead of mourning for your beloved aunt who bankrolled your entry to politics, you’re contesting her will and slapping and pummeling her in her death bed, her coffin, under six feet of earth?

Now Jamby is saying she’s not truly greedy. She just wants a trinket, a thicker slice – maybe a slab -- of her Tita’s wealth. The entire caboodle of fortune? No, that’ s“not greedy,” in Jamby Dictionary.

Jamby says at the moment the issue is a family affair, but she will release details once it becomes a public affair.

Oh, is she threatening to unfurl in public even her aunt’s dirty linen? Exciting!

“Pag malaman ninyo yung katotohanan, it will be one of the biggest telenovelas. And you will be there to know,” she says, like the teaser of a horror-suspense movie.

She says her relatives hired a professional PR not only to do a job on her but also to dissuade her from going to court to get a piece of her late aunt’s assets.

She however refused to say whether she would contest the validity of her aunt’s will. Eh bakit kaya siya kumuha ng abogado?

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, a topnotch lawyer, commented that Madrigal’s fight for what she believes is her inheritance is futile because she isn’t Collantes’ child.

Sabi ni JPE, only the children and the spouse of a deceased person have the right to fight for their share of an inheritance.“Unless the civil code has changed, I think she will lose. Eh kung ayaw kang pamanahan, ano’ng magagawa mo?”

“I would not begrudge her claiming something from her aunt. But she is not a forced heir. Being a niece, you are not a forced heir, you do not inherit by law, you inherit by the grace of the deceased,” ang sabi pa ni Manong Johnny. “Maybe her lawyer knows something I have not learned when I was in law school. But unless the Civil Code was changed, I think she will lose.”

Kaya Senadora Jamby: Moderate your greed – just like what former NEDA chief Romulo Neri instructed whistleblower Jun Lozada to tell former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos.

Otherwise, Neri might think you’re also evil.

Image source: www.comappt.gov.ph/IMAGES/sen._jamby.jpg

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Dumb Disguise

It is not hard to find a mammal who thinks and speaks with a sense no more than that of a hare. All you have to do is find someone who dresses like Pistachio Disguisey, the principal character in the movie The Master of Disguise. And if you are still wondering who that is, check out the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. Look for someone who answers to the name Ana Consuelo (a.k.a. Jamby) Madrigal. It is Dumb and Dumber disguised as a senator.

Jamby takes a lot of pride in her lineage -- her maternal grandfather was Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, granduncle was 1930s assemblyman Pedro Abad Santos. Her paternal grandfather was Senator Vicente Madrigal of Albay; her aunt, Pacita Madrigal-Gonzalez, was a senator during the Quezon and Magsaysay administrations and was the first administrator of the Social Welfare Administration.

But one look at her talking to reporters on television, one hearing of her asking questions in the Senate, and you see the product of "genetic fatigue" -- you know, the farther you go down the family tree the lesser amount of grey matter you’ll find.

If you will just check, for instance, Jamby’s Friendster profile, you’ll find the following: She is interested in "Friends"; her occupation is "Politician" (sic); her hobbies and interests are "To serve our people"; her favorite books, "Women Ahead…"(By the way, there’s no book titled Women Ahead. There’s one called Women Ahead of Their Time, which is, well, not a biography but a bibliography—a simple listing—of the names of women authors. Reading it is like reading the telephone directory so you can very well imagine how much intelligence you can get if this is your favorite book.); and she claims, "We are a family in public services" (sic).

So let us look at some transcripts of the Senate proceedings on the nationally televised ZTE-NBN investigation to get a glimpse of what lies between her ears.

On February 18, when some discussion was made on the supposed "secret meeting" she and Sen. Ping Lacson had with Lozada and CHED chief Romulo Neri here are excerpts:

JAMBY: "First of all, I would like to put in context the date of that meeting and also ask Mr. Lozada certain questions. December 7 to me has three great significances at the moment. It was, as President Roosevelt said, a date that will live in infamy. 1941, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is also the date of my wedding and also the date of the notorious secret meeting na hindi na secret ngayon."

She went on to ask Lozada about the so-called patriotic money for Neri and folowed it up with the following comments after denying that she even offered to put up money in exchange for Neri’s testimony:

Kasi siguro nagkakamali silang mag-approach sa isang Madrigal sapagkat may mga Madrigal pong kuripot. Alam ni Jun yan kasi taga-Bicol kami. Kuripot kami kaya tinatawanan ako dito sa Senado na yung aking baro Monday to Thursday parati akong nagre-repeat. Hindi na ako makabili ng mga baro. Yung handbag ko, dadalawa lang, hindi ako nagpapalit araw-araw. At yung sapatos ko may butas. Kaya yung inaakala nyo pong yung patriotic money or concealed inducement to testify and manggagaling sa akin, nagkakamali po kayo."

And then she went on to ask Lozada about the lifestyle of Neri, questions to which obviously, Lozada had no answers.

Earlier in the hearing on that day, Jamby explained to the committee her reason for filing a case against the alleged abductors of Lozada. And she read her sworn complaint affidavit:

JAMBY: "Mr. Chairman, I just want to read, for the record of the Senate, the reasons I cited in my affidavit for filing the case since it’s being invoked by those who did not appear today. It is not a very long complaint affidavit. I, MA. ANA CONSUELO MADRIGAL, of legal age, married, Filipino, with office address at Room 510, Senate of the Philippines, GSIS Building, CCP Complex, Pasay City, after being duly sworn in accordance with law hereby depose and state that what brought down President Richard Nixon was not any involvement in planning the burglary of the Democratic National Committee Watergate offices but his efforts while president to obstruct the investigation of that crime."

(Wow!!! She knew that for a fact and she was witness to the fall of Nixon and the Watergate??? Wonder how old she was in 1972. And she put that in a sworn affidavit? Even a first-year law student would know better than to put such statement in an affidavit.)

photos by Rudy Rabulan

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The Stench of Prosperity

Industrial Water pollution in the Marilao- Meycauayan River System

Time was when no one would think twice about swimming in the Marilao River in Bulacan. You could jump right in; even catch your dinner in it. Now, parents often admonish their children to keep their mouths close, if, by accident, they fall into the murky river. At no chance must they swallow any water.

Marilao and Meycauayan are first class municipalities in Bulacan, the first province north of Manila. Both towns are prosperous because of their booming industries, notably jewelry- making and tannery. In Meycauauyan alone, there are at least a hundred industrial firms operating at present time. In 2004, there were 22 tanneries, 114 jewelers as well as a few small-scale lead recycling and refining facilities for gold, silver, and other precious metals that were operating around the river system.

But like most rivers used for commerce, the Bulacan River system is in ill health. Industrial waste is haphazardly dumped into the Meycauayan River, a source of drinking and agricultural water supplies for 250, 000 people living in and around this town. It has been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as one of the country’s 50 dead rivers due to heavy pollution. Being regularly monitored by the Environment Monitoring Board (EMB), the Marilao and Meycauayan rivers have consistently shown excess levels of dangerous heavy metals chromium, cadmium, and lead. The rivers have also zero dissolved oxygen levels and high levels of organic pollution that can contaminate organisms and decrease biological diversity.

Last year, a New York- based environmental group listed it as among the 30 filthiest places in the world, again due to industrial waste dumping. It puts the river system in Bulacan – the only South East Asian area in the list – in the same league as places like Chernobyl in Ukraine as well as Tianying and Lanfin towns in China.

Dumpsites and a large lead smelting plant, Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI), are also located directly beside Meycauayan River. The lead plant, in particular, was the subject of investigation for lead contamination. Effluent samples taken from a discharge canal of the PRI contained lead levels of 190 ppm or 3,8000 times higher than the 0.05 ppm or mg/L standard set for lead in effluent from old and existing industries.

No effective measures, however, have thus far been undertaken to rehabilitate the river, which continues to receive toxic effluents from various sources. Although DENR Secretary Lito Atienza had recently promised to revive Marilao River within two years, the government agency has yet to identify the sources of pollution. It also has yet to disclose the particulars of scientific tests which DENR is said to have had conducted in the past as part of its environmental monitoring efforts.

What we do to the rivers show up in other ways as well. Contamination of surface waters and groundwater by chemicals is a serious threat to human health. More than a million people who live around the river system ignore the stench they smell every waking day. Many are prone to weak lungs, asthma and other allergies.

Water pollution in Bulacan dates back to the introduction by the Chinese of the tannery and jewelry industries in the area. Centuries later, today, the river system remains a catch basin for industrial and domestic wastes.

If water pollution is part of the process of industrialization, then this is the price people have to pay for the resultant prosperity they now enjoy. The solution for sustainability remains an elusive dream.
AFP (picture)


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