AN OPEN LETTER FOR MY FELLOW FILIPINOS

My Dearest Kababayan,

I’ve always prided myself for handling stressful situations well. If there are negative people around me, I could easily avoid them. If a social media friend proves to be too annoying or too antagonistic, I could effortlessly block him from my account. If a conversation steers toward a potentially upsetting subject, I could smoothly drag it back to safer ground. If a television channel or a radio station I’m tuned in suddenly becomes too loud for my taste, I could quickly change it or turn the TV or radio off.

Life could be that simple.

Why would I subject myself to hypertension-inducing or wrinkle-causing situations when avoidance is a far more convenient, healthy and favorable choice, right?

During the height of the election campaign, however, I realized that there are certain issues that could only be dealt with by confronting them head-on.

One of such issues is the possible return of a Marcos in Malacanang.

The Marcos camp, using a teeny-weeny portion of their billion dollar plunder during Martial Law, was able to successfully launch an online propaganda of a twisted version of history. Our history.

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Photo credit: philstar.com

People like you and me, complacent in the knowledge that Filipinos have already learned valuable lessons from the past, did nothing to counter these efforts. I, on a personal level, even engaged in a word war with a confraternity brod when he sweepingly referred to the Filipino electorate as “bobotante”. After all that we have gone through as a nation, we have grown into smart and intelligent voters, I argued. We didn’t deserve such a disparaging label.

So through our complacency, we inadvertently allowed our history to be twisted by people with equally twisted minds, and through our inaction, we have unwittingly agreed for this perverted act to be accepted by the ignorant, the gullible, the forgiving or the narrow-minded.  

The little less than 14 million votes that Bongbong Marcos garnered in the vice-presidential race is a testament that a great number of Filipino voters are, indeed, “bobotante”.

Kababayan, my heart is shattered into a million pieces right now. I am hurting. I am frustrated. I am disappointed. I am furious.

When are we eventually going to learn?

Yours,

Mom On A Mission (Lorelei B. Aquino)

PS: I want to share this Facebook post with you in the hope that the strong and powerful words used by the writer will rouse you from your comfortable slumber; that you will emerge from the warm web of lies you have cocooned yourself in – informed, wiser, more aware; that, in the future, you will be one of us as a vigilant guard of truth and a staunch protector of our national patrimony.

Emma, I couldn’t have penned this better. You are truly a gem! Thank you.

To all my FB friends and families,

Please indulge me.

During the dark years of our country under Martial Law, people died and sacrificed their lives to regain our freedom. Cronies like Danding Cojuangco, Juan Ponce Enrile, Lucio Tan & many more flourished. Billions were plundered and none of those have been returned despite court rulings finding for the government. Just to be clear again—money lost, lives lost and those cannot be undone.

I, as much as the next man, value my freedom — but even more so because it’s the kind of freedom that claimed lives. I just can’t take any of these for granted.

Those who opposed Marcos then did not hide behind a nasty tweet or a rising FB post with a meme to stand up to the late corrupt dictator. They took to the streets and faced tanks and guns aimed at them without hesitation.

They did not deactivate their social media accounts when they were outed. Instead, they were abducted from their homes or their workplace only to be tortured (or killed) beyond recognition.

So, here’s the deal…if you are one of these.

* If you have voted for BongBong Marcos whom I consider without a doubt, as one of the world’s unrepentant crooks and you are one of the 13 million voters who want a Marcos back in Malacanang and just a heartbeat away from the presidency, I question your judgement.

* If you continue to spread lies about Martial Law where a total of 107,240 were either jailed without due process, tortured, raped, electrocuted, burnt and 3,240 of them were executed but only 75,000 of them came forward when the country passed a repatriation law to compensate victims of Martial Law because the rest are either still missing or already dead without justice, I question your integrity.

* If you’re a Marcos apologist or a history revisionist who try to justify the Marcos atrocities or prodding us to move on for the sake of progress, I believe you are not only intellectually dishonest but also morally confused.

* If you’re one of those people who say, “the victims have moved on, why can’t you?” I would like you to put yourself into the shoes of these people — just 3 regular people — and see if you’ll be okay with Martial Law:

* Liliosa Hilao, the first female and student activist to die in detention during martial rule. Her body, when found, showed signs of torture—her lips bore cigarette burns, her arms had injection marks, and her body was full of bruises. According to her sister, her internal organs were removed to cover up signs of torture and possible sexual abuse.

* Boyet Mijares, who was only 16 years old when he disappeared. His only sin – being the son of the whistleblower and writer Primitivo Mijares.

* Archimedes Trajano, who was 21 when he questioned Imee Marcos on why she was the National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay during an open forum. A few days later, he was found dead. His body showed signs of torture.

* So, are you still okay with it? Do you still think of Martial Law as that “thingy”?

If you are any of those above, then it means we do not share the same values. We have nothing in common. There is no reason for us to be FB friends or be friends of any kind, in any way, shape or form.

It’s one thing to have differing opinions but it’s another thing if you go out of your way to disinform, revise and promote the legacy of the Marcoses. That I can’t take.

I do not resent you or hate you. I just do not want to be affiliated with you anymore. That’s why I will be purging my FB list shortly. Feel free to be one step ahead and delete/block me now if you fit any of the descriptions above.

It was nice knowing you.

A MOTHER’S WORST FEAR

I don’t think you can find a mother who doesn’t want the best for her children. We may have different ways of showing it, but the driving force behind all of our efforts remains the same – our deep love and concern for our kids.

It’s almost Mothers’ Day. And just a day after that is the Election Day.

We will choose new leaders for our country. And just like with motherhood, we may have different, or even opposing, standards in picking our candidates. But the reason behind this entire political exercise is the same – our deep love and concern, this time, for our country.

As a mother to three beautiful babies, I have had high hopes for this coming election.

I was holding on to my belief that the Filipino electorate has, over the years, grown mature and discerning. That we have learned our precious lessons from the past. That we would take our right to suffrage (which is also a civic duty and responsibility) more seriously. That we would realize that the single vote we would cast has the potential to either make or break our country. That the repercussions of our choices could affect, not just the present generation, but also the generations that will follow.

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Photo credit: http://i.huffpost.com/

However, considering the various surveys’ most recent results, which, for me, are extremely disappointing, I am now growing increasingly alarmed and agitated. Not for my sake, but for my children’s sake. And for the sake of the millions of Filipino children that will most heavily take the brunt of our electoral choices.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate cussing, name-calling, using other foul and vulgar words, blatantly disrespecting people in authority, and degrading women, senior citizens, people with disability, members of the lgbt community, our kasambahay, and even stray dogs, the children will get confused about the value of respect and compassion.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate talking about killing alleged criminals and dumping their bodies in Manila Bay, the children will get confused about the value of law, justice and of life itself.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate hailing the late dictator as a hero, the children will get confused about the value of truth and the accuracy of history.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate insisting that he will not apologize for making a bad joke about rape, the children will get confused about the value of humility.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a candidate saying, “Sasampalin ko ‘yan ‘pag nagkita kami!” when criticized, the children will get confused about the value of freely expressing oneself without fear of retribution.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate claiming that it’s okay to be in row 4 or to copy from a classmate or even to get a failing grade, the children will get confused about the value of education.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate admitting that his wife left him due to his extra-marital affairs, or that he is now involved with more than one woman, the children will get confused about the value of love and fidelity, and the sanctity of marriage.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate openly kissing women-supporters, the children will get confused about the value of decency.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate turning a blind eye to all the violence, bullying and mob reaction that he himself incites among his legion of apologists and defenders, the children will get confused about the value of guaranteed safety.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate declaring that he will shut up about the issue of the West Philippine Sea for the entire duration of his presidency if China will offer to build vital transportation facilities and other infrastructure in the country, the children will get confused about the value of nationalistic pride.

I fear that each time they see or hear about a political candidate flipflopping his statements about his decision to run for president or cursing the Pope or having bank accounts not declared on his SALN, the children will get confused about the value of honesty, sincerity and integrity.

Ang sabi nga, sa mata ng mga bata, ang mali ay nagiging tama kapag ginagawa ng mga matatanda.

And so, even if we, the parents, have been patiently and relentlessly inculcating in our impressionable kids the ethics and positive values that our own parents have passed on to us, I fear that their constant exposure to these examples of immorality and indecency through various media would adversely affect them. Ultimately, the very fiber of what makes us who and what we are as a nation would be greatly compromised.

Therefore, as a mother, I hope and pray that all our candidates would clean up their acts. They should all set sterling examples for the youth and be part of the universal struggle to make the world a better place for them.

LENI ROBREDO, THE LAST (WO)MAN STANDING (An Open Letter for Congresswoman Leni)

Dear Madam Leni,

You are the only woman Vice-Presidential candidate, but that is not what sets you apart from the others aspiring for the same position.

What makes you stand out is your unique brand of tsinelas leadership.

Some people would ask,” Ano po ba ang tsinelas leadership?”

A legacy of your late husband, tsinelas leadership encapsulates your qualities of connecting with the poor and marginalized whom you serve, of keeping your close ties with the masses, and of breaking barriers through accessibility. It is the readiness to get your feet wet and dirty in doing your job. It stands for good governance and genuine public service.

It is the leadership quality that is conspicuously lacking in most of our government officials and politicians today.

While members of Congress are known for their opulent lifestyles, ostentatious display of wealth and power, and patent style of grandstanding, you have managed to stay simple, humble, unassuming and practical.

You take the public bus in going to and from Naga every week, you constantly visit your constituents, you live in the same apartment unit where you and Sec. Jesse started your family, you bring your youngest daughter to school each morning before you go to work, you do your own grocery, and you shun the limelight (you were even caught using the backdoor entrance of the Batasan plenary hall to avoid the SONA red carpet).

In an interview, you said that simplicity is a commitment for your family so you will “remain rooted and avoid getting tempted and becoming used to the perks and privileges that come with the job”.

If only all our politicians could be like you, Ma’am, corruption would now be a thing of the past.

But that’s just it.

You are not a politician.

You are a public servant.

Even before you were thrust into the chaotic world of politics by the untimely demise of Sec. Jesse, you were already serving the people. For free. As an advocate lawyer, you were helping the farmers through your affiliation with Saligan, and the oppressed and the indigent sectors through the Public Attorney’s Office.

Being a staunch champion of women’s empowerment and gender equality, you helped establish and chaired the Naga City Council for Women to give women a voice in governance and decision-making. You also founded the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga to provide training and livelihood opportunities for the women of your beloved hometown.

When you got elected in 2013 as the representative of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur, you were able to author or co-author a total of 14 laws and 121 bills.

Ma’am, that was quite a feat for any political novice!

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According to one brilliant lawmaker, Filipinos should choose their next leaders based on three standards — academic excellence, professional excellence and moral excellence.

Please join me, Ma’am, in evaluating your five VP opponents with reference to these standards.

Alan Peter Cayetano

A graduate of the Ateneo Law School, Cayetano entered politics at a young age. Hardworking and passionate, he is known to espouse worthy causes. He fearlessly exposes and relentlessly investigates government officials involved in illegal activities.

I have always been a Cayetano supporter even if he is a member of a political dynasty — that is, until he made Mayor Duterte his running mate.

I don’t understand why a public servant of Cayetano’s caliber, academic background and integrity would condone, and even defend, someone who is prone to making reckless, malicious and callous statements; someone who has allegations of extra-judicial killings and, recently, unexplained wealth under his belt; someone who can’t present concrete, admirable and plausible plans of action for the country; someone who can incite, and revels in, a mob reaction from his supporters; and someone whose lifestyle is an insult to the very values we hold dear as Filipinos. Why would Cayetano throw away his moral compass and his father’s legacy of good governance? Why would he turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the glaring iniquities that he so dauntlessly fought against in the past?

I just don’t get it.

Francis “Chiz” Escudero

A graduate at the UP College of Law with a master’s degree in International and Comparative Law from the Georgetown University, Escudero impressed me with his dedication and intellect. In his eighteen years of public service (he served as Congressman from 1998-2007 and as Senator from 2007-present), he was able to file more than 500 bills and to pass 144 laws. I also admire the stance he assumed on certain issues (pro-impeachment charges against GMA, pro-RH bill, pro-FOI bill, pro-Corona impeachment, against divorce, against imposition of new taxes).

There are just three things that I take against the smooth-talking senator.

Firstly, he is in favor of a Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. But, then, I should have seen that coming. His father, after all, is the late Salvador Escudero III, a known Marcos crony.

Secondly, he is prone to support politicians of either questionable integrity or doubtful capability. Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Jejomar Binay — I have no idea what principle or guideline Escudero employs in choosing whom to give his loyalty to.

Thirdly, he is the second poorest senator but he was able to afford a lavish Balesin wedding (and another fancy reception in Manila) to actress Heart Evangelista. Escudero’s defence that they did not spend beyond their means only managed to rouse suspicion regarding two important points: the issues of propriety and conflict of interest. By the way, among their principal sponsors are Hans Sy (of the SM group of companies), Ramon Ang (of San Miguel Corporation), Fernando Zobel (of Ayala Corporation), Andrew Tan (of Megaworld Corporation), Lance Gokongwei (of Robinson’s Corporation, Cebu Pacific and JG Summit), Bobby Ongpin (of Alphaland), and Jerry Acuzar (of New San Jose Builders).

Quite impressive, huh?

Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV & Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan

Trillanes graduated cum laude in the Philippine Military Academy and later earned his master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. He is one of the most productive senators during the 15th and 16th Congress, with a total of 1,109 bills and resolutions filed, 56 of which have been passed into law.

Honasan, on the other hand, earned his Bachelor of Science degree, along with the academy’s highest leadership award, from the Philippine Military Academy. He was a highly decorated soldier and was one of the principal players in the 1986 EDSA revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.  As a Senator, Honasan’s primary advocacies include environmental, military, police, and agrarian reform issues.

Trillanes led the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege as a protest against the prevalence of social injustice and the rampant corruption during PGMA’s administration. Honasan, with the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and allegedly under the tutelage of then Defense Sec. Enrile, staged a total of six coup attempts against the Cory administration. Two of these attempts became bloody – the Aug. 1987 coup left 53 dead while the Dec. 1989 coup left 99 dead (50 of which were civilians) and 570 wounded. He was also allegedly behind the Oakwood Mutiny and Feb 2006 coup attempt against PGMA.

While I understand their apparent discontent and resentment that compelled them to rebel against the government, they should have, in my opinion, upheld their constitutional mandate to enforce the law and to protect the people and the state. There are other ways — legal ways — to express one’s grievances, that could prove to be more effective and casualty-free. PGMA is now under hospital arrest, isn’t she?

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

I tried, really hard, to find any redeeming quality that could somehow humanize in my eyes this dictator’s heir. But to no avail.

All I can see when I look at Bongbong is the face of a chronic liar.

He presents his father’s dictatorial rule (what he fondly calls the Golden Years) “as the best thing that ever happened to this country.” That statement is, of course, in stark contrast with what the historians have to say, “The Marcos government appears, by any standard, exceptional for both the quantity and quality of its violence.” Under Martial Law, 70,000 were incarcerated; 35,000 were tortured; 882 went missing; and 3,257 were murdered.

In the comic booklet that Bongbong’s camp released late last year, he depicted his family as the clueless victims of the US soldiers who greeted them with guns when they landed in Hawaii in 1986. It is, again, in stark contrast with the personal accounts of the journalists who witnessed the Marcoses’s arrival at the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. According to them, the Marcos family “was greeted by high ranking US military officials and by the old friends of the ex-president and Madam Imelda, Hawaii’s governor and his wife, who both placed leis around their necks.

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Bongbong claims that it is the government that is blocking the compensation of Martial Law victims. Debunking that, the PCGG said that “court records would show that it was the senator who was hindering the return of his family’s ill-gotten funds to the people”.

He maintains that he has never been accused of abuse of power during his father’s presidency. However, “in 1985, when he was 26 years old, his father appointed him chairman of the board of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat), receiving a monthly salary of around US$9,700. This, despite that fact that he rarely went to the Philcomsat office. In 1986, government auditors discovered that Philcomsat was one of the many corporations and organizations used to siphon ill-gotten wealth out of the country.”

Bongbong has been arrogantly proclaiming that his father’s wealth came from legitimate sources. “In 2003, however, the Supreme Court defined the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family as those in excess of their total legal income of around $304,000 only, earned from 1965 to 1986. So far, PCGG has managed to recover about $4 billion, less than half of the $10-billion fortune believed to have been amassed by the Marcoses through the years.

He also lied about his academic credentials by claiming to have an undergraduate degree at Oxford University, one of the world’s most prestigious and elite universities. However, Oxford confirmed that Bongbong definitely did not earn such degree. In his official resume’, he also claimed to have earned an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Wharton School records do not show any Marcos Jr. in their list of graduates.

Bongbong is emphatic in saying that he has never been implicated in anomalies involving corruption during all these years of his public service. He, however, figured in whistleblower Benhur Luy’s list of lawmakers involved in the multi-billion scam. P205 million of his PDAF is allegedly allocated to the six fake NGOs owned by Napoles. Wow, that’s a lot of money!

Lastly, he said that, “The sins of the father are not the sins of the son…..It is not my obligation to apologize for the sins of the past administrations.” But he and his entire family have been, for decades now, enjoying the fruits of those sins. His election funds may very well be coming from the legendary Marcos plunder. And, for goodness’ sake, he is just a heartbeat away from Malacanang should he win this coming election!

So, please, Congresswoman Leni. Do not let the dictator’s son win.

Do not let another Marcos rule the country.

Do not let Bongbong Marcos make fools of the Filipinos for the second time.

Rest assured that we, the enlightened and vigilant people of this country, are with you in this endeavor. You won’t be alone.

Now, let me end this letter with the words I shared in the Women For Leni page.

“Like every Filipino, I wish for a better Philippines.

I want to leave my children and my children’s children with a country that is lovingly steered by public servants with unquestionable integrity, uncompromising principles, stellar work ethics, fervent compassion for the underprivileged, and genuine concern for our beloved Luzviminda.

Leni, for me, is the embodiment of all that. And more.

Modest and unassuming, she hates to be in the limelight. She is a reluctant leader who was forced to dip her finger in the dirty waters of politics due to her passion to serve the people. She is a woman of action who does not hesitate to have her hands dirty in reaching out to the needy. She has a name that is untarnished by corruption and is synonymous with “tsinelas leadership.” She is the epitome of an empowered Filipina, the voice of the voiceless, the champion of the oppressed.

My conscience would never let me vote for anyone else.”

Respectfully yours,

Lorelei B. Aquino (Mom On A Mission)

 

Note: For a complete list of Leni Robredo’s accomplishments, click here.

WRITING TO THE “MESSIAH”(An Open Letter for Mayor Digong Duterte)

Dear Mayor Duterte,

With your recent controversial statements, you have managed to annoy, antagonize and even enrage a lot of people. Anti-Duterte campaigns are being launched in an effort to discredit you to your supporters. They want to depict you as a blabbering “bruskong berdugo”.

In a personal attempt to really get to know you beyond your media persona, I poked around, rummaged through the internet, and dug deeper. I watched numerous videos and read countless articles about you. And the following is what I learned about the man that Filipinos either love to hate or hate to love.

Incredible. People’s reaction to your candidacy from the moment you filed your COC in December was swift, solid and intense. It was, undeniably, their way of letting the present administration know that they have had enough. They are fed up with the widespread corruption and the seemingly lack of effective and timely action in addressing the most basic problems that Filipinos face on a daily basis. Four months (and countless of blunders on your part) after, your support base is more intact than ever. They have grown in number, in strength and in intensity. And they have become blind to your faults.

Reluctant. It took a while for you to finally be convinced to join the presidential race. You said that you lack enthusiasm for the job. In every opportunity you get, you don’t fail to remind us that you’re just doing it to answer the people’s urgent clamor for change. You make us – me – feel indebted to you. Your exact words then? “If you want me to do it, then I’ll do it. But in my way.

Charming. Talking to you is never boring. During campaign sorties, public debates or interviews, you always manage to entertain your audience with your poker-faced humor, flippant remarks, witty one-liners, snappy comebacks, and animated stories. And if you happen to be on the right mood, you even treat them to steamy shows just like what you did in Pampanga.

Fair. You believe that everyone has the right to feel safe and protected at all times. And if that right is violated by common law criminals, you feel the need to eradicate the perpetrator of the crime – without the benefit of the legal due process. You said that the way to stop violence is to use violence. It’s just ironic to have to hear that coming straight from the mouth of a lawyer, who is supposedly the agent of the administration of justice.

Authentic. Unlike most politicians, you are brutally frank. You mean what you say and you say what you mean. No beating around the bush, no frills and gimmicks, caution usually thrown to the wind. You really are a breath of fresh air, Mayor Digong! (Or a PR nightmare to your team, depending on one’s perspective). Your accusation that Mar did not really graduate from Wharton triggered a childish word ward and slapping challenge between the two of you. Your insinuation that you, along with other boys, were sexually abused by priests during your years at the Ateneo de Davao High School created quite a stir among the Jesuit community. Your pronouncement before the Ilocanos that you are in favour of giving the late President Marcos a hero’s burial did not sit well with your anti-Marcos supporters. Your declaration before the Kapampangans that you will release CGMA if you’re elected president was, likewise, not acceptable to your anti-Arroyo followers.

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Photo credit: http://wethepvblic.com/

Passionate. Moderation is not in your vocabulary. Do you still remember the warning you issued during your interview with Maria Ressa? “If my efforts to improve the country were to be blocked by a corrupt Congress, I would declare a revolutionary government and close down Congress.” On the issue of the disputed West Philippines Sea, meanwhile, you said that it would be futile to engage China in a war because we don’t have a chance of winning. What you will do, instead, is to ask the Navy to bring you to the nearest point [in the sea] that is tolerable to them and you will ride a jet ski. “I’ll carry a flag and when I reach Spratlys, I will erect the Filipino flag. I will tell them (Chinese), suntukan o barilan?” Hay naku, Mayor.

Exciting. Because you have a big, bad mouth (“bastos na bibig” was how you aptly put it), people are always waiting in rapt attention for your next controversial, explosive and, often, scandalous confessions and revelations. Let me see if I get this right, okay? No other politician uses expletives and swear words with such alarming frequency. No other politician publicly curses the beloved Pope. No other politician disparagingly uses the word “bayot” (gay) to refer to a political opponent.  No other politician regales his audience with a story that is insulting to the kasambahay. No other politician openly admits that he is a flirt and a womanizer. No other politician wants to make a candidate from another party his Assistant President “because she is beautiful”. No other politician has made a joke about a deceased rape victim. No other politician, Sir. Just you. Are you sure you don’t have a political death wish?

Generous. Also on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, you said that if China will offer to build vital transportation facilities and other infrastructure in the Philippines, you will shut up for the entire duration of your presidency. That is, indeed, very generous of you, Mayor. But what happens to your campaign lines, “I am Rodrigo Duterte. I am a Filipino and I love my country, the Philippines. It is the land of my birth, it is the home of my people.”? You are planning to abandon the country’s long-standing claim to the territory for a few trains!

Eager. One of your many campaign promises is getting rid of corruption, drugs and criminality in about three to six months after you assume the presidency. Of course, that statement earned cheers from your supporters, but jeers and raised eyebrows from your critics. Personally, I don’t think that’s achievable. Unless you declare another Martial Law and become another Marcos.

Appreciative. Your team, friends, family and supporters will do virtually anything for you. I’ve heard numerous times how your running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano, would appeal to the electorate. “If you don’t want to vote for me, okay lang po. But, please, vote for Mayor Duterte.” Commendable, right? But how did you repay such thoughtful and unselfish gesture? When you were in Ilocos, you said that if you are not able to stamp out crime in 3-6 months, you “will step down and give the presidency to Bongbong.” (As if the presidency is a cheap toy that a child can easily give or share with his playmate!) BBM, for his part, exploited that carelessly-thrown statement to mock Cayetano during their public debate. That was, after all, an opportunity too golden to pass up. When your daughter said that she herself was a rape victim, apparently in an effort to help you get out of the rut you effortlessly put yourself in with your repulsive remarks on rape, how did you show her your appreciation? You publicly announced that you don’t believe her claim. You even called her a drama queen! If that’s how you treat the people who show you love and concern, Mayor, I don’t want to think how you deal with those who openly antagonize you.

You have to admit, you don’t fit the mold of the typical politician, Mayor Digong.

I would like you to know, though, that I can accept and forgive you your insensitivity, your indiscretion and your indecency. I can even try to develop an appreciation for your unique brand of humor. I can also pretend to like your extra-judicial plans of action to battle crimes.

What I can NOT do is to willingly entrust in your hands the great responsibility of holding the reins of my country and its future. I will make sure of that when I cast my vote.

Sincerely,

Lorelei B. Aquino (Mom On A Mission)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR POLITICAL CANDIDATES

In just four days, all of us registered voters will go out to make our voices heard by casting our votes. We are expected to choose our candidates by listening to the command of our intellect and the dictates of our conscience.

But what should we, in turn, expect from the people that we are about to elect?

The following is the list of commandments that we should demand our political candidates to adhere to and live by for them to gain or maintain a modicum of decency and moral uprightness. (Thanks to social media, we no longer need to etch this list in stone tablets and have it declared atop Mt. Sinai like what Moses did!)

Some of these commandments, by the way, are already covered by the law or by the Comelec rules but may not be closely monitored or strictly enforced. Familiarizing ourselves, therefore, with these commandments could help us determine who among our candidates are habitual violators and who are law-abiding.

Altogether, let us be aware and vigilant.

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  1. Thou shall not buy votes. Thou shall respect the sanctity of votes. If the ballot is for sale in the first place, it should have been made available in the stores nearest thou years ago. Thou shall not also amass or harbor flying voters.
  1. Thou shall not over-spend before and during the campaign and election periods. It may not be illegal to over-spend prior to the campaign period, but it certainly is not moral, either. It is not also fair to other less financially-endowed candidates. Most importantly, it will give rise to corruption and patronage politics should thou win the election. Within the campaign period, thou shall make sure to spend within the legal limit and to truthfully declare such expenditures to Comelec as imposed by the law.
  1. Thou shall not be involved in indiscrimate campaigning. Thou shall ensure that all thy campaign materials adhere to the size allowed by Comelec. Thou shall use only the common areas specifically designated for the posting of said campaign paraphernalia. Thou shall make sure that thy supporters shall not vandalize, tear down or cover other candidates’ posters and tarps. After the election, win or lose, thou shall voluntarily require thy supporters to clean up until not a single campaign material is left on the streets. Both thy house-to-house campaigning and thy campaign vehicles which loudly play thy jingles shall not be staged and shall not do the rounds during the most unholy hour of the day.
  1. Thou shall not think, say or do ill things about and to thy fellow candidates. Thou shall raise the bar of campaigning by avoiding mud-slinging, black propaganda, smear campaign and childish bickering. Thou shall serve as the standard by which others shall be measured. All candidates must be judged solely according to thy integrity/principles, experience, platforms and stand on various socio-political issues. Needless to say, thou shall not have thy opponents harassed, bullied, coerced, intimidated, threatened, injured or assassinated.
  1. Thou shall not lie. Thou shall divulge only true and accurate information about thyself such as thy medical condition, citizenship, educational attainment, political accomplishments, etc. And for us to recognize thou should our paths cross, thou shall use thy most recent and least photoshopped picture for thy campaign materials. Also, thou shall not make up excuses to avoid media interviews and public debates. The electorate has the right to know how prepared thou are to handle the position thou are running for.
  1. Thou shall not use any government resources to further thy campaign. Red-plated vehicles and government-owned audio-visual equipment, for instance, shall not be utilized during the proclamation rally, motorcade, meeting de avance, and other campaign-related activities and events. Similarly, thy campaign materials shall not be printed using the printing press operated by the government.
  1. Thou shall not use thy power and influence as an incumbent official to gain an edge over thy opponents. If thou, for instance, happen to be the DSWD Secretary prior to thy filing of thy COC, thou shall not solicit the votes of an entire community in exchange of a promise to have them be recipients of the Conditional Cash Transfer program.
  1. Thou shall not demean this democratic process or insult the intelligence of the voting public by turning thy campaign rallies into a spectacle of dancing, singing or acting candidates. If thou want to show off thy talent in the performing arts, thou better audition for ABS-CBN’s Star Magic or GMA-7’s Artist Center.
  1. Thou shall not make promises that thou are not committed to keep. If thou promise during the campaign that no family will go hungry during thy term, or that no one will be a squatter in his own country, or that every Filipino will have a job, thou better deliver. With today’s modern technology, it is extremely easy to record and make a compilation of all the promises thou have made while campaigning, and to be held accountable for them should thou bag that most sought-after position.
  1. Thou shall not cheat. Thou shall honor the voice of the people, and once the people have spoken through their ballots, their choices shall be considered sacred. Thou shall not try to manipulate the election outcome through illegal and unscrupulous means.

We have the Fair Election Act (RA No. 9006) to provide equal opportunity for all the Comelec-recognized candidates and to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections. But with some brilliant minds that are capable of manipulating or circumventing the law to their advantage, what we need are candidates that are truly deserving of our votes – candidates of unquestionable integrity and uncompromising principles, and with ardent concern for the underprivileged and genuine love for our country.

AN OPEN LETTER FOR FIRST-TIME VOTERS (Part 2) ON HOW TO SPOT A TRAPO

Dear First-time Voter,

Hi, there! It’s me again. And, as I promised in my first letter, here’s a quick lesson on recognizing the tell-tale signs of a traditional politician or trapo in the Philippines.

  1. He sees the government as a family business wherein almost all his relatives are employed – initially, for “indoctrination” and, subsequently, for training for a higher position. We call these families “political dynasties”. They thrive in power.

    Some of the best known political dynasties in the Philippines. Image is owned by pulpolitika.wordpress.com
    Some of the best known political dynasties in the Philippines. Image is owned by pulpolitika.wordpress.com
  1. He latches on to his position for the love of money. A few years into “public service”, and he’s already acquired mansions, haciendas, resorts and high-rise buildings. He has a fleet of expensive vehicles. He is surrounded by a horde of loyal maids, security personnel, personal assistants, chauffeurs, consultants and legal advisers. He has multiple bank accounts, both local and foreign, under his own name, an alias or a dummy.
  1. He treats votes as a merchandise and us, voters, as retailers. He resorts to shameless and irreverent vote-buying to secure his most-coveted political seat.
  1. He thinks that he is above the law. It could be as simple as violating traffic rules or as labyrinthian as circumventing the laws of the land to protect his personal interests.
  1. His office’s payroll includes names of his relatives, friends, golf/shooting/travel buddies, or even of people who are long dead.
  1. He awards multi-million project contracts or meaty public positions to his campaign donors. This act of repaying utang na loob is part of what we call “patronage politics”.
  1. He files a candidacy even if he very well knows that he is not intellectually qualified for the position. He’s simply banking on his celebrity status as an actor, a singer, a dancer or an athlete. (Or an athlete’s wife, an athlete’s brother, an athlete’s trainer, and so on and on and on.) Watch here Karen Davila’s interview with Alma Moreno, a senatorial candidate, to know what I mean.
  1. He considers his jurisdiction his personal wall. Tarpaulins, paintings, billboards and even graffiti of his face (or in some cases, his initials or an image of his mustache) fill the streets. And, as if the sight of all that face of a single person is not enough, it’s also stuck on all his turf’s government vehicles, all the licenses and IDs that emanate from his office, all the post lamps, all the government buildings and other infrastructure projects, all the tents found in wakes, and even all the tiles on the sidewalk. So a certain town, city or province may, at some point, appear to be his personal domain after all these “branding efforts”. I’m sure, the term epal is not new to you.

    Image is owned by raissarobles.com.
    Image is owned by raissarobles.com.
  1. He latches on to power like a drowning man desperately holding on to a piece of log for dear life. When he is, for instance, done with his allowed number of terms as a mayor, he runs as congressman. When he’s done with being a congressman, he runs for senator. And this goes on until he reaches the pinnacle of power, the presidential position. Wondering what happens to the other positions he vacated? Refer to #1.
  1. He has no loyalty to his political party. Admittedly, we have a flawed political system. Our multi-party system allows for a establishment of a party or a coalition of parties at someone’s whim. So, like a butterfly, he easily flits from one party to another. He belongs to the group of politicians we call “balimbing”.
  1. He will do everything and use any and all available machineries at his disposal to make sure that he bags his re-election bid. He may resort to black propaganda, widespread cheating or electoral sabotage, or if all those fail to do the trick, a phone call to an influential election officer, Hello Garci-style.
  1. He is all too willing to compromise his principle (if you can call it that) just to guarantee a slim chance of gaining electoral victory. He could, for instance, conveniently forget that, in the past, he had been attacking colleagues for their roles in Martial Law only to coalesce with the dictator’s son later on because of what? Of the latter’s tight hold of the North? I bet, he is the kind Groucho Marx refers to in his quote, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…..well, I have others.”
  1. He is a perennial liar – someone who could go as far as rewriting history to protect his interests. He may either write a memoir that’s basically based on fantasy or embellish his academic credentials to make him appear superior than most. What’s so alarming about this kind of people is their ability to lie so convincingly because they themselves are already convinced that their lies are the truth. What is it they say? “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

These remaining three may not be characteristics of a traditional politician, but are nonetheless, the kinds you should also be wary of.

  1. He banks on people’s sympathy over his loss of a loved one to secure a position. Dubbed as necropolitics, it is when someone (normally, a political novice) tries to enter the political arena by constantly mentioning the name of the deceased and the latter’s accomplishments as if they are his own.
  1. He is a master at finger-pointing, fault-finding and excuse-making. He shuns accountability and command responsibility like a plague. He always finds someone to blame for all his mistakes, shortcomings and bad calls. Everything that goes awry is always somebody else’s fault – the past administrators, the old contractors, the cabinet members, the impoverished, the weather, etc.
  1. He is a (self-confessed) criminal and human rights violator. He is a tough guy who says things like, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, you are a legitimate target of assassination.” and “If I am the president, I will let you swallow those bullets even if it means death.” and “I will order your execution in 24 hours.” He fights crimes with crimes, and the appalling thing is that people cheer for him. Are we really that hopeless and desperate?!!!

    Mayor Duterte flashing the dirty finger. Image is owned by manila.coconut.com.
    Mayor Duterte flashing the dirty finger. Image is owned by manila.coconut.com.

Now that you have the basic knowledge of the kinds of politicians you should evade at all costs, I’m sure you are itching to tell me, “But you’re not leaving me with much of a choice here. In fact, I think, you have just killed all my options!”

You know what? While writing this, that’s what I realized, too!

Oh, by the way, welcome to my world. This is the real world.

Still wishing you lots of luck,

Lorelei B. Aquino (Mom On A Mission)