Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why ‘pork’ imbroglio inspires Alim

“You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.” MILTON BERLE

By Alex P. Vidal

While some guilty characters in government squirm in shame and embarrassment, city council majority floorleader Joshua Alim doesn’t hide his excitement each time the “pork barrel” scandal is tackled in media. Everywhere he goes, Alim’s face glitters with joy and excitement as if he just won a duchess’ heart.
“Now that it (the pork anomaly investigation) is happening, the playing field will now be leveled in 2016,” Alim intoned.
What was in the mind of the alderman from Cotabato City who now resides in Jaro, Iloilo City, is that once “pork barrel” fund has been expurgated or bleeped out from the national budget, most reelectionists in the congressional contest will be crippled financially.
The discovery of scandalous “pork” insertions in the budget of legislators has spawned suspicions that corrupt congressmen and senators set aside a big chunk of their kickbacks from ghost projects through bogus NGOs run by the likes of Janet Napoles in preparation for reelection, aside from their insatiable greed for money and predilection for instant wealth.


Those who pocket their “pork” allocations are usually assured of reelection as their rich war chest will give them overwhelming edge to make a mincemeat of their rivals–unless these challengers are billionaires like Lucio Tan and Henry Sy.
Without the backup of “pork barrel” fund otherwise known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) during the time of the late Pres. Cory Aquino and Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a congressional or senatorial candidate doesn’t have a morsel of chance to win unless he comes from a super rich clan.
Going back to Alim, the guy’s definitely salivating for a congresssional showdown against reelectionist Rep. Jerry P. Trenas, his partymate and conqueror in the 2007 mayoral election. It’s too early to talk about politics, but among the present crop of congressional wanna-bes in the city council, Alim is the one ripe for the 2016 battle royal, aside from fellow lawyer Eduardo Penaredondo.


The Youth for A. L. I. M. Movement (Y4A), Inc. has been given the certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and appears all-set to help buttress Alim’s bid for higher office in the future.
“I am sharing my life story to inspire the young people that even an ordinary and average poor young man can become a leader..and that poverty is not a hindrance to success if we only Dream, and Strive hard with faith and strong determination in ourselves and strong faith to God…keep up the good works guys and just keep the spirit alive…i am always hre as ur big brother..God bless our dreams for the young people..God bless Y4A…Aim high Less-privileged Ilonggo Masses (A.L.I.M.),” Alim wrote in his Facebook account as response to the SEC recognition.
If Trenas seeks reelection and stays with Liberal Party, Alim will have no choice but leave the ruling party and seek refuge in the company of Vice President Jojo Binay and Manila Mayor Erap. After all, Alim was once an ally of the deposed President under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).
In his recent trip to Baltimore, USA to represent Iloilo City in a water summit, Alim posted a Facebook photo of him together with fellow members of RP contingent with a caption that screams “future members of Congress.”

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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


Mabilog loses brilliant legal adviser

“Enjoy your time in public service. It may well be one of the most interesting and challenging times of your life.” DONALD RUMSFELD

By Alex P. Vidal

Whatever his critics say about him, outgoing City Legal Officer Jose Junio Jacela will be a big loss in the administration of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
Jacela will bow out as chief of the legal department effective September 30 after Mabilog accepted his resignation and designated Atty. Daniel Dinopol as his successor.
Jacela tendered his resignation after the city council rejected in a 14-1 vote his reappointment by Mabilog in July this year.
A former law professor and city prosecutor, Jacela has been chief legal officer since July 2010. When he was city councilor during the administration of Mayor Mansueto Malabor, Jacela helped save Malabor from various legal disasters (except in the P130-M Pavia housing scam where he and the former mayor were among the respondents) by just “being there when Pare Mansing needed him most.”


The late former city treasurer Romeo Manikan Sr. considered Jacela as “Pare Mansing’s saving grace” because Jacela knew how to guide Malabor, a fellow lawyer, wiggle out from risky deals that would give then fire-spewing opposition sentinel, city councilor Inday Pearl Zulueta, reason to haul Malabor in the Ombudsman.
Jacela made the right decision to resign after Mabilog failed to convince city councilors to reconsider their nay vote. Life is happier and livelier outside public office. City hall is a gossip mill anyway. Despite his seniority and professional standing, Jacela has not been spared by intrigues fomented by some of his peers in the city mayor’s office. There were those who gave him Mona Lisa smile when he was facing, and buried molotov in his back when he was turning his back or when he was not around.


Being identified with the past administration is one of Jacela’s mortal sins. From day one of his appointment, there were some Mabilog minions who didn’t like his presence in the city legal office.
No one is exactly sure if his relationship with former vice mayor and now Mabilog adviser Victor Facultad has improved, but reports said it’s hard to convince Facultad to smile each time Mabilog mentioned some of Jacela’s magnificent contributions in his administration. Facultad, however, has been very efficient in his public relations job and has earned some pogi points for the Mabilog administration in his own herculean effort.

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


Syjuco’s plunder case vs Drilon

“When I saw corruption, I was forced to find truth on my own. I couldn’t swallow the hypocrisy.” BARRY WHITE


By Alex P. Vidal

The next story we expect to read in the newspapers would be Senate President Frank Drilon suing former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco for libel. A tit for a tat.
At least that was what the big man of the Philippine senate had promised after he became a recipient of his first-ever plunder case filed by Syjuco in relation to the 1991 construction of the Hall of Justice building in Iloilo City, Drilon’s second graft case in less than a month.
The building, Drilon’s project when he was cabinet official under Pres. Cory Aquino, has been vacated by court employees and judges alarmed by cracks on the walls and floors days after the earthquake in February 2012. It is currently undergoing repair after experts declared it structurally unsound and ordered occupants to abandon the building.
In a Daily Guardian report by Tara Yap dated September 25, 2013, Syjuco alleged sub-standard materials were used in the P100-million building aside from lack of competitive bidding, among other anomalies.


Syjuco alleged further that Drilon plundered some P75 million from the building’s retrofitting when it was damaged by earthquake.
“Our investigation shows about 75 million pesos was lost during these two transactions. First transaction, 200 million pesos plundered by Drilon. Second, 50 million from PDAF (priority development assistance fund) for the retrofitting of the building. Retrofitting is very controversial kasi ayaw ng mga tao na nag-occupy the building. They don’t want to return to this building. Lahat ng galing sa building ayaw na bumalik. Kasi ang sabi ng Department of Public Works and Highways the building should be demolished completely. Pero si Drilon ayaw ipa-demolish, kasi dito makikita lahat ng baho, lahat ng tinago nila na substandard,” report quoted Syjuco as saying.
At first glance, some people will suspect that Syjuco, smarting from the May 13 congressional poll defeat to Drilon’s former lackey, Arcadio Gorriceta, in Iloilo’s second district, has a beef against Drilon and filed the suit as act of vendetta. They could be right. Syjuco suffered double blackeyes after the recent elections. Hardly had the wounds of his election loss were healed, President Noynoy Aquino humiliated Syjuco, who is himself facing graft charges filed by TESDA employees, in the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Syjuco blamed Drilon for his defeat to Gorriceta and the SONA embarrassment was too much to bear.


On the other hand, Syjuco’s plunder case against Drilon shouldn’t be sardonically viewed with absolute skepticism by anti-Syjuco forces; it should be analyzed based on merits and evidence. The Office of the Ombudsman will look into the allegations of fraud based on weight of evidence, paper trail and possible patterns of corruption. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales won’t give a hoot about the political and personal feuds of protagonists involved in the case. She is mandated by law to resolve the case with utmost objectivity and fairness.
Drilon cannot entirely claim that the graft and plunder cases filed against him are a form of “political harassment” since he is the one now in power while his accusers — Syjuco in plunder case, and Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada in the P15-million graft case in relation to the Iloilo Esplanade project– are no longer connected in government. Did he or did he not steal the taxpayers’ money?
Times are changing. Sometimes we’re up, sometimes down. The wind of political change will not tilt on our favor permanently. Once upon a time Drilon thought he was indestructible, a demigod beyond reproach and a mythical figure in the country’s political landscape. Not anymore today, sir. Time to face the music and read the handwriting on the wall.

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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


We need water and we need it quick

“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.” MITCH HEDBERG

By Alex P. Vidal

The real problem we are facing today is water crisis, not whether we have the best board of directors in the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD). Even the best water czars are useless if the faucets are empty.
The role of appointing the new set of MIWD board members is ministerial on the part of Iloilo Governor Art Defensor, who has agreed to “share” (via consultation) his authority to select the new water bosses with Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
Even if Gov. Defensor and Mayor Mabilog will appoint Vid-ava, a water deity, to the MIWD board, whoever is in charge of the water management will most likely face the same problem tackled by the past board of directors. Water problem has been there since time immemorial.
Water scarcity affects not only Ilonggos but also Cebuanos, Warays, Ilocanos, especially in far flung areas in Mindanao. It is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces. Metro Manila has the worst water crisis. People kill each other because of dispute in water supply or the lack of it.


There were times when Ilonggos were up in arms against the MIWD in particular, and the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) in general for their failure to provide adequate water supply in areas covered by their jurisdiction. When faucets of residential areas in municipalities of Oton, Maasin, San Miguel, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, Cabatuan, and Leganes dried up, there was domino effect in the entire metropolis. Just like electricity, water crisis victimizes both the rich and poor.
Ilonggos criticized MIWD officials not really because some of them were corrupt, but because they needed water in their faucets — and there was none. And they wanted it quick. They wanted it soon. Water is life of everyone.
Vigilance and empowerment on the part of residents is needed to explore the local stories and global trends defining the world’s water crisis. We must learn and study where freshwater resources exist; how they are used; and how climate, technology, policy, and people play a role in both creating obstacles and finding solutions.


In the global water summit attended by Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim in Baltimore, USA recently, people were exhorted to make a research and peruse important reading materials, so we can learn how to make a difference by reducing our water footprint and getting involved with local and global water conservation and advocacy efforts.
The United Nations has informed us that water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change.
Wherever we are, we need water to survive. Not only is our body 60 percent water, the resource is reportedly also essential for producing food, clothing, and computers, moving our waste stream, and keeping us and the environment healthy.
Experts say humans have proved to be inefficient water users. Report said the average hamburger takes 2,400 liters, or 630 gallons, of water to produce, and many water-intensive crops, such as cotton, are grown in arid regions.


Here are some of the facts that manifest imminent water crisis in the global scale as reported in the National Geographic: Freshwater makes up a very small fraction of all water on the planet. While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Even then, just one percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people.
Due to geography, climate, engineering, regulation, and competition for resources, some regions seem relatively flush with freshwater, while others face drought and debilitating pollution. In much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain.

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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


Despite ‘pork’ scam, Iloilo farmers get DA support

“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.” Samuel Johnson

By Alex P. Vidal

Even before the “pork barrel” scandal erupted with catatonic intensity this year, former Ilonggo sectoral Rep. Salvador Cabaluna and former TESDA Director General, both losing candidates in the May 13 congressional and local elections, were already tearing each other apart over Cabaluna’s alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” fund.
The country’s agricultural sector, which employs an estimated 12 million people and making up 33 percent of the national labor force, according to the 2012 Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, in fact, became the favorite “whipping boy” of corrupt congressmen and senators who connived with Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind fake NGOs that “implemented” the projects.
These hooligans in Barong Tagalog probably thought it’s easy to fool the farmers and fishermen who comprise 70 percent of the rural poor and whose average level of education is elementary.


This is the sector that contributes about 11 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with US$14.7 billion, although government investment in the sector was only 4 percent of the national budget in 2011.
The average daily wage of a farmer is $6, versus the national average of $10, it was learned. A major typhoon can easily wipe out earnings, small-scale farmers have learned. Ranked as one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, the archipelago experiences an average of 20 typhoons annually.
Meanwhile, despite the “pork” hullabaloo, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, undaunted by the “pork” issue, acted as Santa Claus to a group of Iloilo farmers last September 17.
Alcala turned over certificate for the P6-million Rice Processing Complex I and P1 million-worth four-wheel tractor to the PALACATI-AN Irrigator’s Association in Iloilo headed by Eduardo Alcasaren in a ceremony held at Brgy. Tigum, Pavia, Iloilo.


Lilibeth French of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-6 reported that the association has 452 registered members from Barangays Pagsanga-an, Cabugao Norte, Tigum and Anilao in Pavia, and Lapayon in Leganes. It has a total service area of 810 hectares with 100 percent cropping intensity.
French wrote that Alcasaren thanked Alcala for the multi-million-peso equipment and facility saying, “We are very grateful for these support – the Rice Complex and the tractor because we see that these will add or improve our productivity as well as the quality of our life especially of our children.” The association also receives incentives from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for its good performance in Irrigation Service Fee Collection, French revealed.
French further wrote that Alcala, for his part, lauded the farmers’ group for their good performance and said the support is just the first step to attain the Aquino Administration’s thrust of “inclusive growth”. “From time to time naririnig po natin ang inclusive growth, kung ano po ito dapat iisa ang ibig sabihin – pag nagsimula ang tulong sa ibaba hanggang sa itaas kasa-kasama at dapat magsimula po sa inyo ang pagtulong,” said Alcala.


The PIA report said Alcala stressed before the farmers the government’s farm mechanization program, demonstrating the use of Rice Combine Harvester and Reaper. He also met with more than 800 farmer-members of different Irrigator’s Associations in the province during the Farmers’ Forum held at Western Visayas Agriculture Research Center at Brgy. Hamungaya, Jaro.
The turn-over ceremony, Field Day and Farmers’ Forum were part of the “Rice Harvest Festival” organized by NIA and DA, said the PIA report.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


She looks like Serena Williams and promises not to forget me

“Tennis is just a game, family is forever.”


By Alex P. Vidal

Paris Reese was 12 years old when her look-alike, Serena Williams, collected her third US Open title in women singles in 2008 by whipping Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 7-5 in the hard court.
This was when her father, Jack, invited me to watch Paris perform superbly in Las Vegas where she ran away with the 2008 DTC Santa Clause Classic Tennis championship.
Reese, a Coronado mainstay and the Cougar’s dominant figure in Sunrise Region at Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, loves the Williams sisters — Serena and Venus — so much.
“Oh, one day I want to be like them; I want to be like Serena. She’s my role model,” Paris told this writer. “I also like the way Serena smiles especially when she raises her trophy.”



“Someday you will also earn millions of dollars like them, and I hope you won’t forget me,” I replied to Paris in jest. She retorted, “You will write about me in the future. How can I forget you?”
We also watched Serena’s masterful conquest of Russian Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3, in the 2009 Australian Open for Serena’s unprecedented fourth Aussie crown.
“I will always support Paris in her favorite sport. I know she will be a great tennis player someday,” Jack told this writer.
Paris almost resembles Serena’s physique. Like the world No. 1 tennis player from Michigan, Paris also loves to curl her hair and feels comfortable whacking the ball with both legs in spread position. “She is still growing,” Jack quipped. “She will be taller and heavier when she reaches 18.”


Since putting away Jankovic and Safina, Serena yielded only one of her eight trips to the final in the Wimbledon Open, French Open, and US Open. Serena lost a gut-wrenching match to Australia’s Samantha Stosur, 2-6, 3-6 in the 2011 US Open.
Serena blasted her sister Venus, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in the 2009 Wimbledon final in the grass court; trounced Justine Henin, 6-4, 3-6, 62 in the 2010 Australian Open for his fifth title; clobbered Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 for her fifth title in the 2012 Wimbledon Open; subdued Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5; and walloped Maria Sharapova, 6-4, 6-4, in the 2013 French Open clay court.
Serena made headlines once more recently when she smashed Azarenka again, 7–5, 6–7(6–8), 6–1, for her fifth US Open title.
Serena, 31 (she turns 32 on September 26), has a boyfriend, Patrick Mouratoglou, 12 years her senior. “Strictly no boyfriend for Paris yet. No way,” vowed Jack, the “stage father.”

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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


Did Vishy learn to say ‘checkmate’ in Manila?

“A woman can beat any man; it’s difficult to imagine another kind of sport where a woman can beat a man. That’s why I like chess.” ALEXANDRA KOSTENIUK

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By Alex P. Vidal

Jim Slater (not the ice hockey player) sent me the link of Deccan Chronicle with a story that happened 19 years ago about Soviet-born American chess grandmaster Gata Kamsky “saying sorry” after eliminating Indian grandmaster Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand, 6-4, in the FIDE (Federation internationale des echecs) or World Chess Federation quarterfinal held at Sanghi Nagar, Hyderabad, India in 1994.
Slater is an Australian sports scribe I met outside the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) sometime in June 1992, during the 30th World Chess Olympiad. His namesake, Jim Slatter (last name with double letter “t”) is also an Australian and my esteemed colleague and friend in the original World Boxing Federation (WBF).
Slater was asking if I know that Anand, 43, learned the rudiments of chess in the Philippines when his family moved here in the early 70s. He wanted to know more about the Anand family’s stint in the Philippines. Did Vishy really learn and sharpen his chess skills in Manila? Was he trained by a Pinoy? I told him the truth: I have no idea.


I play chess and cover chess tournaments as a sports writer, but I didn’t know that Anand, the current world chess champion, was a one-time “resident” of the Philippines. Interestingly, Anand won the world junior chess championship in Baguio City in 1987 at 17, the second time for the gigantic event to be held in the Philippines since 1974 where Britain’s future super-GM Anthony Miles emerged as world champion. A year after winning the Baguio world junior crown, Anand became India’s first grandmaster.
“I am sorry,” the Deccan Chronicle story quoted Kamsky, now 39, as saying after ousting Anand. The report cited international master P. D. S. Girinath’s analysis that Anand was the hot favourite going into the quarterfinal and the result was unpalatable for his fans. “Everyone thought Anand would win convincingly, especially after he led by two points midway through the match. The eventual result upset everyone at the tournament hall and Kamsky’s gesture was appreciated.”


Garinath added, “In the match against Kamsky, Anand drew the first two games and won the third and fourth. Fifth was a draw and then came his downfall, when he lost two games. In the final game, he drew to enter the rapid fire round. Despite holding a better position with black, Anand lost the first rapid game. He tried very hard to make it even with white pieces in the second game, but failed.” Garinath further said: “Kamsky and his father had got their return tickets booked even before the end of the match, as they had expected Anand to win easily. The organizers — Sanghi Industries — had already agreed to hold the semifinals in the same venue anticipating Anand’s participation.”
The match was conducted well, according to chess coach and international arbiter V. Kameswaran. Fans reportedly proved to be a distraction for Anand. Kameswaran said playing at home might have taken a toll on his performance towards the end of the match.


Kameswaran pointed out that the Indian champion did not wait long to take his revenge. He defeated Kamsky 6.54.5 in a 12-game final qualification match in the Professional Chess Association (PCA) world championship cycle in 1995.
The story said the win helped Anand challenge world champion Garry Kasparov for the title. Meanwhile, Kamsky defeated Valery Salov of Russia in the semifinals at Sanghi Nagar in 1995 before losing to Anatoly Karpov of Russia in the world championship match in 1996. “Since world champion Karpov was playing in India, there was a buzz among chess players during the semifinals. However, the absence of Anand was obviously felt,” Girinath said.
When Anand won the FIDE World Chess Championship for the first time in 2000 at Tehran, Iran, writer Arunabha Sengupta, narrated in a September 12, 2013 article posted on “Anand overcame a flight delay due to the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajokull, and underwent a harrowing 40-hour road journey before defeating Veselin Topalov to secure the World Championship. In the sixth game he made 13 consecutive moves with the knights, leading commentators to wonder whether he was trying to solve the Knight’s Tour Problem.”

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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Uncategorized