The Binay conundrum

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

In a nation of crabs, a political stock that soars is often met with a volley of darts and arrows. Think Oca Orbos, the brightest political name in the early 90s, and how a conspiracy managed to irreparably damage what could have been an ascent to the presidency.

Of course, Oca himself—his bent and his mindset and his genetics—was part of the reason why he did not become president.

He was too decent for politics. His late father wanted his sons to be priests, and not lawyers and politicians. Oca saw politics not as a blood sport but rather a pure form of civic duty. In the Philippines and elsewhere, you cant be president with this kind of predisposition and mind frame. Continue reading

Moving public investments East

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

What are the minimum goals of state investments?

• They should go to areas and sectors that need them most
• They should yield the maximum social and economic benefits
• They should be cost efficient
•They should be game-changers

Really, what can beat state investments that meet the test of both cost-efficiency and maximum yield? Plus the fulfillment of the game-changing yardstick. Continue reading

The Alberto house and déjà vu

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

Reading historian Ambeth Ocampo’s article on the Alberto ancestral house in Laguna brought me to the past right away: an old house in Lubao that was bought by the same developer currently negotiating to acquire the Alberto house and was moved—old tile by old tile—to a seaside town in Bataan.

The Laguna house was of historic value, connected to the life and times of the mother of the national hero. And when something concerns Rizal, who shaped him and what shaped him, the value is deemed priceless.

The old house in Lubao, bought by the developer who contracted the controversial tenements called
“Home along the Riles” and brought, “wooden plank by wooden plank and old tile by old tile” to a Bataan seaside resort town, was not a house where heroes lived. But the old house was a virtual mural of history.

That old house in Lubao relates to the topics of the old: the feudal structure, the Basques that settled in the country to own and run sugar mills and haciendas, the days of the landlords and the sharecroppers. It relates to something new and current: meritocracy and the singer Enrique Iglesias.

Can we really weave all of these things into the history of one seemingly obscure old house alone? Yes, and I will explain. Continue reading

Not a mere option

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

What saved us from the economic meltdown that spooked many a stable economies across the globe?

*Sound leadership? No.

*Strong economic fundamentals? No.

*Rule of law, more so in a nation of stable rules and meritocracy? No.

*A fortress-like center that held through a decade of failed leadership? No.

That the leadership was sound and governance was efficient existed only in the minds of the outgoing leaders—part-lie, part-myth that has to be spread around for posterity. Even the Marcoses still feel they left a legacy of greatness and why can’t the Arroyo administration do the same.

More, there is small base that is receptive to these prevarications. There is also a big chance that history books may just cut and paste from this body of myths and lies. There is really nothing unusual about leaders writing their own version of history. Shorty from Iran even leads the pack of Holocaust deniers. Continue reading

An inconvenienced man

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

The fictional Al Gore did this thing: He “invented” the Internet. He did not, of course, but it has to be cited that Gore, was a geek, even before the word “geek” became part of our everyday jargon. During his years at Capitol Hill, he was part of the so-called “Atari Democrats,” who exhibited genuine passion toward technology. And at the same time made pioneering initiatives to push for a science and technology agenda.

The passion has endured. Al Gore now sits on the Apple board. I don’t think Steve Jobs and company would have offered  him that board seat had Gore turned  lukewarm on  technology issues. Gore is also a venture capitalist, investing on green and pioneering technologies.

The other fiction in the life of Al Gore:  his love story with Tipper Aitcheson was the basis of the tearjerker and top grossing movie “Love Story.” Not quite, said Erich Segal, but the domineering father of Oliver Barrett 1V, the main character of the movie, may have been Al Gore Sr. Continue reading

Noynoy should reverse the urban bias of agri policies

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

The economic advisers of President Aquino, if drawn from the same cloth and mind set of the Arroyo advisers, would feed him tons upon tons of hogwash about agriculture.

They would tell him the status quo is better. Such as: importing rice and other basic food stuff makes more sense than energizing agricultural production to a point of achieving self-sufficiency in staple food items. They would cite the supposed monstrous cost of massive agricultural investments and the supposed little returns from these. They will burnish the anti-farm bias with the conventional wisdom that imports are more cost efficient.

The graphs that they would present to the new president would, of course, skip the dark and sinister side of importing our food needs. Such as the 2009 and fist semester of 2010 rice imports, which would total a global high of more than 3.5 million metric tons. Our massive rice imports have been the single biggest factor behind the contended lives of Thai and Vietnamese rice farmers. And the main reason rice prices have remained high in the global market.
Continue reading

Some Things

Hi Tang,

How are you and Ma? It’s been two months since I started my quest turned exile. Although it’s my first time to live away from the confines of our house, I was quick to adapt the independent life.  It was how I expected it, a lot less comfortable than living in our house in the province or in Manila. The things that I have gotten used to like clean clothes right out of my closet, a sturdy truck for cruising, and food patiently waiting on the dinner table, made my first week of living quite hard. I felt like I was a chain smoker who woke up one day only to find out that all the cigarettes in the world had suddenly disappeared. Having poor time management skills made it even harder. I am not whining, but rather thankful for allowing me to take this detour. After the first week, I had perfected the art of living alone.

I am on my own but my eyes are open.

The number of days that I spent living away from home is directly proportional to the new things I learned. Some things that I already thought I knew were proven wrong. Some things I’m beginning to learn are things that an average person in his mid 20’s should know by now. In the process of things, it became clear to me why some things in the past didn’t work out and how some things worked out perfectly.

 I should be back soon, hopefully before July. Clearly, I won’t be around on Father’s Day this coming June 20 to greet you personally. Like the way I missed Mother’s Day, and how I waived my right to suffrage last May 10. And yes, for the nth time, I won’t be bringing a pregnant girl with me when I return home. Stop worrying about it too much.

Your only son,

Averagejom

Awkward Silence 2

It is 30 minutes past 1 am and we are in the wake of a fiber break affecting one of our outgoing links, leaving a single point of failure for outgoing voice calls. The shift lead, which was a voice engineer, has a flight bound to Manila at 5 am. My shift starts at 10pm and ends at 7am. His shift ended at 11pm, without hesitating this zealous fella carried the task of coordinating the implications of the fiber break to the different business heads. Tired and weary he turned to me asking a little favor:

Voice guy: Are you awake around 5am?

Me: Ah…. (is this a trick question?)

Voice guy: I have a favor.

Me: Sure sir! What is it? (does he know I sleep after he goes off?)

Voice guy: Can you call me around 5am? If it is okay.

Me: No problem, Sir! (what the heck was that? My shift ends at 7am so it follows I should be awake.)

Voice guy: Thanks, Joms!

Me: No worries, Sir!

Awkward silence follows…

 

The pride of the Estehanons

The pride of the Estehanons

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

Governor and congressman-elect Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar is not prone to purple prose, and, as a former journalist, is very much inclined toward brevity and conciseness in both verbal and written communication. Still, he insists that describing entertainment icon Boy Abunda as a “treasure” of the Estehanons (the people of Eastern Samar) is an understatement.

The context here is important, the governor said. When Este-hanons turn on their TV sets and they see Boy Abunda defy the outrageous bent of the entertainment aspect of television to display decency, civility, depth and discernment in a medium that allows too little room for such class act, they are naturally proud, very proud, added the governor.

The governor added: There are of course stars in our provincial galaxy and they are in various fields such as business, politics and the mass media. But not one shines brighter than the star of Boy Abunda.
Continue reading

Party-list blues

Party-list blues

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

The late Butil Party representative Ka Nellie Chavez did so many things in her life in a great and quiet way, mostly for the coop movement and the peasantry. But what she was proudest of was rejecting the legal ordure called the Con-Ass. On the day she refused to sign that trash of a resolution. She had this feeling that a heavy cross had been lifted off the country.

How many of the self-proclaimed oppositionists in the House had mustered the same courage? Not counting the party-list groups with the Left, only Ka Nellie was the only party-list rep with the silent courage to reject the Con-ass.

But for some self-proclaimed do-gooders and pundits who do not live in the real world, that silent heroism displayed at a critical point of our political history meant nothing.

A few days before the election, these self-proclaimed crusaders for good politics included Butil in the list of party-list groups supposedly allied with the Arroyo administration, party-list groups identified as overly subservient to the Arroyo administration. This is all bunk, of course, given our Con-Ass vote. The Con- Ass vote separated those with principles and those without—it drew the line between those willing to perpetuate an unwanted regime in power and those unwilling to condone such travesty.

In the intense debates by the Council of Leaders of Butil, there was always this bent to do what is for the best interest of the peasantry and what is good for the country—not a sad regurgitation of mendicancy and subservience.

A simple act of fact-checking would have cleared the issue of subservience against Butil. But the supposed crusaders/pundits who warned the voters against Butil were either of two things: too lazy to fact check or too fat to make the elementary movement of Googling the phrase “subservience to the Arroyo administration.”

Of course the vilest of attacks from the lazy cannot, in any way, trump the truth. Butil, which evolved from a peasant group we registered in the early 80s (even before the word party-list existed), won.

The travails of party-list groups, of course, do not end with the conventional wisdom spewed by lazy pundits and fake crusaders for good government, who treat scurrilous e-mails sent to them as gospels of truth. There are others, and some are worse off than being attacked for no reason at all.

Party leaders and members expelled for various reasons pose a greater threat to legitimate party-list groups. And this is precisely the thing that is holding our proclamation as a party-list winner now.

I do not know how many party-list groups are in the same dilemma—in which expelled leaders and members—invoking phony legitimacy and using the party registration—present a separate set of party-list nominees other than the legitimate one to the Commission on Election to confuse the Comelec. In our case, our party-list had been excluded from the initial list of proclaimed party-list groups by that and a great harm has been done.

What I know is that we are the party that truly represents the peasantry in a legitimate and profound way, the party that assists in production, in the provision of technical assistance, scholarship grants to children of poor farmers who are too poor to go to college, and even medical assistance to farm families too poor to get medical treatment. All of these services will be put on hold in July, if Comelec does not render a quick and just judgment on appeal to reject the usurpers.

For the record, we are also the first party-list group to advocate a major agricultural program of the president-elect, Noynoy Aquino, which is to put to productive use some one million idle and underutilized farmland via public and private support.

We are also the first party-list group to advocate a P5 billion starting fund for agricultural research and development (R and D).

On a higher level, the Come-lec should deal with pretenders and poseurs with urgency. A second set of nominee does not usually come from people with the real right to engage in intra-party disputes. They come from sour grapes, expelled leaders and members and even outright pretenders.

The Comelec will not violate any code of laws or basic human rights if such naked attempts from poseurs and pretenders to ride on the hard work of legitimate party-list leaders to secure party list representation are rejected outright and exposed for what they are.

A Comelec resolve to dispose of these nuisance cases with both urgency, justice and fairness will not only help the legitimate party list representatives under assault from pretenders. The other big boost is to the constituencies of the legitimate party-list reps. In our case, these are farmers that are being literally situated between the deep sea and the hard rock: El Niño this season and La Niña the next.

Gloating over nothing

Gloating over nothing

BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

The 7.3-percent growth rate for the first quarter of 2010 happened under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch. It is hers. And nobody is saying it is not good for the country.

Still, the propagandists of Mrs. Arroyo have no right to make the growth rate a public relations peg—as in challenging the next administration to duplicate such supposed feat. The truth is the growth surge was bound to happen and Mrs. Arroyo’s leadership had nothing to do with the growth rate.

The analysts are right on the mark. Higher remittances from overseas Filipinos, election-related spending, last-minute fund releases for administration favorites which translated into public works projects and additional employment resulted in welcome injections into the anemic economic mainstream.
Continue reading

I, You and We

I have a fragile heart, a heart so fragile even a mere word could shatter it to pieces.
You never fail to say the wrong words at the wrong time.
We’d like to think that time is short, but all along our actions are.
I have long legs, which allow them to easily hang over my head when doing yoga.
You can run from this reality to another reality.
We all have our own reality.
I have a hard head, a head so hard that it can withstand long hours of abuse.
You can use and abuse it, provided you swallow.
We have been provided with everything we need but none of those we want.