Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hard Choice

The so called "ambush" attack last April 20 on a vehicle convoy in Barangay Binakalan, Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental by New People's Army rebels which resulted in the wounding of Mayor Ruthie Guingona of Gingoog City and the killing of her driver and one of the mayor's security escorts, has focused the nation's attention once more on the issue of how should political candidates during elections conduct themselves when doing campaign sorties and similar activities within areas claim by communist insurgents as part of their "territory".

Guingona, the 78 year old wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, who will be stepping down after the May 2013 general elections suffered "shrapnel wounds in her arms and legs" as well as fractured bones in her hips and arms" according to her son, Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III. The mayor is presently still recovering after surgery in a Cagayan de Oro City hospital but is considered in a stable condition.

Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, the spokesman for the National Democratic Front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NDF) in Mindanao, has in a public statement apologized to the mayor and her family and has said that the attack on the mayor's convoy was unintentional.  Madlos said that Guingona's security forces fired first on NPA forces manning a makeshift checkpoint and that the insurgents only returned fire in self-defense.  He further alleged  the NPA had only wanted to stop the mayor's vehicles, disarm her bodyguards and admonish her about "bringing armed escorts" into "NPA influenced areas."

Madlos has also tried to downplay the allegations from the government and the country's military leadership that the attack on Guingona is connected to the practice of NPA units extorting so called "permit to campaign fees" from politicians during election periods.  He has insisted that the incident was actually a consequence of the CPP-NPA's policy of conducting checkpoints in order to enforce their prohibition of the bringing of armed escorts by political candidates into their strongholds.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Where Oh Where?

Where oh where should the new Lianga police station building be located?  This question is at the heart of a a minor storm of controversy that has placed this town's current town officials on edge, in the spotlight and in defensive mode.

But first, it is best to have a brief review of the salient facts.

For decades, the local police station has always been part of the local town hall building complex.  After all, the town hall is the visible and tangible projection of the power and authority of the municipal government and its officials.  The local police force is the hammer that the town government uses to enforce law and order so it would only seem logical that it should be headquartered where the municipal government offices are.

But with the slow and gradual growth of the town and the expanding scope of the responsibilities being assigned to local law enforcers, they began clamoring for bigger and more modern facilities.  The continued existence of a strong and active Communist insurgency in the region also mandated that, for tactical and security reasons, the Lianga police force be preferably housed in a separate location from that of the municipal hall.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jingle All The Way

I have to say this.  If those running for public office in the May 2013 general elections would put the same degree of effort, creativity and ingenuity into the creation of their campaign jingles that they would pour into finding permanent solutions to the problems of their constituents when and if they do get elected into office then perhaps this country would finally be able to get back on the long, hard road to lasting peace, progress and prosperity.

In Lianga nowadays, there is nary an hour that passes by when everyone's ears and sentiments are not assaulted by the loud and intrusive beat of campaign songs and jingles being blasted out of passing cars or tricycles sporting loudspeakers mounted on their roofs or strapped to their sides.  A quick listen to the town's new FM radio station, Heart FM, also forces the listener to suffer and endure minutes of the same thing.  With a total of at least nineteen candidates vying for local office and with each one of them compelled to come out with a catchy jingle for himself or herself (many have more than one version playing somewhere), the incurious listener is often left with no choice but live with the jarring cacophony of what amounts to political advertising on a musical albeit more visceral level.

The typical campaign jingle, of course, most often borrows the melody of some durable or contemporary chart-busting pop music song.  "Gangnam Style", the K-pop sensational hit by Psy, remains the most used or, to be blithely jocular about it, abused tune as far as local politics is concerned.  Another is "Call Me Maybe" by Canadian singer and songwriter Carly Rae Jepson.  Jun Lala, Lianga's current vice-mayor, who is setting his sights on a second full term, uses a jaunty campaign ditty based on the latter to get his message across in his barangay sorties.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On Political Dynasties

The devious double-talk and evasive gibberish  with which many political candidates running in the May 13, 2013 general elections try to escape or sidestep the hot and controversial issue of political dynasties never cease to amaze and fascinate me.  This is particularly true of the many of them who are the direct or indirect beneficiaries of this rather unsavory aspect of local politics and who are therefore the most adverse to having the topic come up for discussion because they themselves have the most to explain to the electorate.

Take the case of Vice-President Jejomar Binay who recently endorsed the candidacies of three of his children ( Jejomar Erwin who is running for another term as mayor of Makati City, Mar-Len Abigail who is a reelectionist congresswoman for that city's 2nd district and Nancy who is a senatorial candidate of the UNA or the United Nationalist Alliance).  "It is not enough that one's sibling, parent or relative will win," he told a crowd of UNA supporters recently.  "What's important is, you're the one who's going to vote."

And then there is former President Joseph Estrada, the erstwhile "convicted plunderer" according to his bitter rival, Manila Mayor Fred Lim, who echoed the same tired message in a campaign sortie for the UNA in San Juan City.  "In a monarchy, " he pompously declared, "power is inherited.  Here, it is the people who decide, isn't it?"  Besides, he gamely pointed out that one of the advantages of political dynasties is that there is continuity of programs and projects. Estrada's son, Jinggoy, is an incumbent senator and another son, JV, is vying for a Senate seat under the UNA.  A former mistress and the mother of JV, Guia Gomez, is angling for another term as mayor of San Juan which has been an Estrada stronghold for decades.

In the province of Surigao del Sur (of which Lianga is part of) like in at least 90 percent of the country's 80 provinces, the problem of political dynasties is no less a persistent and grim reality.  For over a decade now, the Pimentel-Ty clan has been the dominant and controlling force to reckon with in the province. Before them  it was other political clans like the Castillos and the Murillos.