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Author Archives: Alex P. Vidal

About Alex P. Vidal

Alex P. Vidal is a Filipino journalist who travels to chronicle community and international events in sports, environment, business, science and technology, culture and religion, politics, media, health, government, among other interesting subject matters.

Wanted: A Pinoy Chris Wallace

“You’ve gotta understand–when you interview someone, it’s not an interrogation. It’s not the Nuremberg Trials.”

Joan Rivers

By Alex P. Vidal

IF we have TV and broadcast journalists in the Philippines who ask questions like Fox News’ Chris Wallace, brash-talking and fire-spewing Filipino politicians like President Digong Duterte like Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla would also be reduced to a sputtering, sweating mess like what happened to U.S. President Donald Trump recently.

Wallace’s combative interview with Mr. Trump on “Fox News Sunday” earned him almost universal praise for his willingness to real-time fact-check and push back against some of the mercurial American president’s wrong and ridiculous claims.

As of this writing, that sensational interview, viewed by almost six million televiewers, continued to be the talk of the town.

We could only gnash our teeth as we watched the tense interview imagining how Mr. Duterte, et al would wiggle out vis-a-vis a Chris Wallace-type interviewer in the Philippines.

Who would that Pinoy Chris Wallace be?

Would there be one—or would any Pinoy journalist dare to be one, in the first place?

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Because of their usual sycophancy and probably fear of Mr. Duterte, most TV and broadcast hosts in Metro Manila would normally ask leading and safe questions rather than risk pissing off the lion during press conferences and studio interviews.

Even if they would sound friendly and their subservience was broadly pronounced, most Pinoy TV and broadcast journalists still could not escape from Mr. Duterte’s expletive-laced diatribe and insult.

Against a Chris Wallace-type “inquisitor”, Mr. Duterte might meet his match—and probably Waterloo.

Wallace, who was also critical of the Obama administration, came armed with statistics to challenge Mr. Trump arguments about the mortality rate and testing for COVID-19.

A flustered Mr. Trump responded: “I’ll be right eventually” after being asked by Wallace to respond to clips of him making too-rosy predications about the spread of the coronavirus.

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“No one works harder on an interview,” Associated Press quoted University of Maryland’s Bettag, the longtime producer of ABC’s “Nightline” when Wallace would occasionally sub for Ted Koppel as host.

“He goes over and over on questions. He consults with as many people as he can. Most of all, he studies what his subject is likely to answer. He did a great interview because he worked his butt off getting ready.”

At one point, Trump denied it

When Wallace asked, “Why on Earth would your administration be involved in a campaign to discredit Dr. (Anthony) Fauci?” Mr. Trump denied it.

The intrepid American TV host then showed Mr. Trump a copy of an anti-Fauci cartoon shared on social media by a White House aide.

Wallace also kept many of his questions direct, less easy to slip away from: “Is the Confederate flag offensive?”

“Would you consider a national mandate that people need to wear masks?”

“Why wouldn’t you … send more money so the schools would be safer?”

Wallace’s Filipino counterparts definitely have learned a lot from that swashbuckling one-on-one interview with the U.S. president.

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IF the Western Visayas Regional Task Force (RTF) on COVID-19 and Regional Inter-Agency Task Force did not make an appeal, both Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia would still not have lifted the border restrictions they had earlier imposed one after another.

When Treñas issued a travel ban earlier for people crossing Iloilo City and Bacolod City, Leonardia followed suit “primarily in reciprocity”.

The lifting of travel bans from both city mayors occurred after RTF spokesperson, Atty. Roy Villa, had called for a meeting with various government agencies to address the issue where they agreed to make an appeal to both city mayors.

While travel restrictions were seen as one of the most effective means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one city and province to another, economists were saying the local economy would be in the losing end as it would prevent and delay the transfer of basic goods and commercial commodities, in this case, in the islands of Panay, Negros, and Guimaras.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Air of hopelessness

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

—Elbert Hubbard

By Alex P. Vidal

SOME people are getting impatient and there seems to be an air of hopelessness hovering in many parts of the Philippines now that the situation appears to be “not getting better” in as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned.

Instead of seeing the decline of COVID-19 cases after the second quarter of 2020, there seems to be no stopping the pandemic from further bringing sufferings and sadness to the people.

It seems COVID-19 will stay as long as it is still 2020.

The bad thing is there is no assurance it will be fully contained by 2021, not until the vaccine has been discovered and mass-produced quickly.  

We are now entering the third quarter and COVID-19 cases continue to rise instead of going down.

And the trending is worldwide with the United States still leading the pack with nearly 3 million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths.

Hospitals’ critical care capacity in the Philippines is near the “danger zone” at 70 percent, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Several hospitals in the country have already reportedly stopped accepting patients with coronavirus disease.   

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We are glad that here in New York, which used to be the epicenter since March, “things are improving” and the state is now going to be held up as the model for the rest of the United States because of its “remarkable road to recovery”.

New York was hit first, while the virus and how to treat it were still poorly understood, and New York City is an international travel hub with densely packed neighborhoods and a heavily trafficked public-transit system.

It got hammered.

The outbreaks in other parts of the US aren’t anything like what happened in New York, at least not yet.

What others states, notably Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are trying to do is avoid New York’s fate, even as they are lectured about the superiority of the Empire State’s approach.

The positivity rate—the percentage of tests coming back positive—has increased in all of these places, and in Arizona has reportedly gone above 20 percent.

The seven-day moving average for the positivity rate reached an astronomical 50 percent during the worst of the outbreak in New York.

Deaths are also reportedly going up in all these states, but the scale so far is completely different from what New York experienced.

About 32,500 people have died in New York.

About 4,300 people have died in Florida, a state of comparable population.

In Texas and California, both bigger states, about 3,300 and 7,000 people have died.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced July 14 the actions taken in its ongoing response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic.

FDA scientists have identified specific areas of the so-called spike proteins on the surface of the COVID-19-causing virus that appear to be key to triggering strong protective antibody responses in rabbits exposed to the virus.

The virus uses one part of the spike protein to attach to a cell and another to fuse with the cell membrane, enabling the virus to infect the cell.

The scientists studied antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, which could help inform vaccine design by increasing our understanding of the various triggered antibody responses.

As of mid-June, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than eight million cases of infection and approximately 450,000 deaths globally, making the development of safe and effective vaccines to prevent this disease a priority.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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We don’t write scathing resignation letters

“The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out.”

—Billy Collins

By Alex P. Vidal

I CAN’T recall a single case where a newspaper writer or editor in Iloilo, or Western Visayas for that matter, has written a scathing resignation letter to the local publisher during his departure.

Not even in the national broadsheets, as far as I can remember, at least since democracy was restored after the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

In my time as a post-EDSA community journalist, I witnessed editors and writers, including myself and other regular columnists, transfer from one regional paper to another without any prejudice to the relationship with the publishers and coworkers in the publications we’ve worked with.

There were clashes in principles and political views, but personal and professional ties have remained intact even after the separations.

We never wrote resignation letters that would burn the bridges with our former media bosses and colleagues like New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, who recently published a scathing resignation letter she sent to New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger on her personal website.

Weiss noted she doesn’t understand how toxic behavior is allowed inside the newsroom and “showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.”

Weiss wrote: “It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.”

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She then explained that she joined the paper in 2017 to help offer a different perspective, as the Times’ “failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers,” and fixing that issue was critical.

“But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned,” Weiss wrote.

“Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”

Weiss lamented that “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times,” but social media acts as the ultimate editor.

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FOR many Filipinos, the broad daylight and “senseless” murder of ABS-CBN by the 70 congressmen in the House joint panels on July 10, was like a death of a family member.

The same melancholy is felt in the Filipino communities in other parts of the globe that used to wake up and go to bed monitoring the events in the Philippines and enjoying the programs in their TFC channel.

Many mothers, wives, grandparents, and children, in particular, had considered ABS-CBN as their household companion.

They regularly watched and listened to ABS-CBN’s public affairs program, news, entertainment like soap opera and noontime shows like they were doing their regular private and household chores.

All of a sudden, that important “member” of the family was gone but its nostalgia and good memories.

All of a sudden, the TV channel where they used to tune in to locate ABS-CBN during prime time, is now displaying a rainbow.

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Until now, many ABS-CBN lovers continue to mourn like they are in an actual vigil of the dead in the funeral homes.

Most of them find it hard to accept ABS-CBN’s sudden demise, and the insults and vitriol they hear from people who add insult to their injury are further helping deepen and exacerbate their sadness and agony.

They are aware most of those who hated ABS-CBN were probably motivated only by their canine loyalty and too much admiration for President Digong Duterte, not because they believed ABS-CBN was evil.

If Mr. Duterte did not declare a war against ABS-CBN, those bashers probably would never say a single bad word against the doomed broadcasting network.  

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Caesar and ABS-CBN

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

—Soren Kierkegaard

By Alex P. Vidal

SIXTY senators, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, took turns in stabbing to death Julius Caesar at the Theater of Pompey on March 15, 44 B.C.

Seventy congressmen, led by Rodante Marcoleta Cassius and Michael Defensor Brutus, murdered ABS-CBN in the House Joint Committee for Legislative Franchises, Good Governance and Public Accountability,      on July 10, 2020.

What did the Roman senators gain after killing Emperor Caesar?

Nothing.

Except that history was so cruel to them.

They had to escape outside Rome after being chased by angry Romans who burned their houses and other edifices.

Cassius and Brutus both committed suicide after being crushed one after the other by the combined forces of Mark Antony (Caesar’s trusted lieutenant) and Octavian (Caesar’s 17-year-old nephew who became Emperor Augustus) in the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.

As their primary source of news, public affairs program, and entertainment, Filipinos love ABS-CBN dearly as the Romans admired and loved Caesar as the symbol of their strength and dominance before Jesus was born.

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What did the 70 congressmen gain when they murdered ABS-CBN, by the way?

Nothing except, perhaps, helping bloat heavily the ego of a dictator.

Will history be also cruel to them?

Let us wait and see.

History has always been cruel to tyrants, oppressors, rapscallions, and egregious political lackeys like the 70 solons.  

It was ancient Greece that first experienced tyranny on a large scale both from the external threat posed to their small city-states by the mighty Persian empire and from the tendency of their own politics to veer between extremes of tyranny and anarchy.

A change in government usually meant the new winners would oppress the previous winners, prosecuting them and seizing their property. Responsible self-government under the rule of law was fragile.

Waller R. Newell, professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Carleton University, warned that different categories of tyrannies emerged over the ages that have helped to classify and condemn tyranny and other exploitative forms of authority, and to encourage self-governing societies.

We can still apply those categories today.

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But the 70 congressmen don’t need to escape with their tales wagging like Cassius, Brutus, and their co-conspirators in Ceasar’s murder while the Filipinos grieve for ABS-CBN’s demise.

It will be their respective constituents who will kick their asses come election day.

What the 70 congressmen did was already equivalent to a political suicide.

Even in “death”, the Filipinos will continue to love and support ABS-CBN the way the Romans honored and immortalized their beloved Caesar.

It was fundamentally and logically wrong to eliminate a media institution that has been functioning as a major pillar of Philippine democracy over flimsy reasons.

It was pathetically erroneous and a monumental blunder on the part of the government to treat ABS-CBN like an ordinary pizza parlor or ice cream manufacturing company when its primary and paramount function is to safeguard democracy as media watchdog.    

Although we find it hard to comprehend why they would hate ABS-CBN with such mind-boggling magnitude and even “celebrated” the network’s defeat like the people of Moses who worshipped the golden calf, we can never hate back those who had sought to guillotine the country’s hitherto leading broadcasting network that employed 11,000 workers nationwide.

There is history as the final arbiter.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Iloilo oil spill can be the ‘coronavirus of the sea’

“Many people believe the whole catastrophe is the oil we spill, but that gets diluted and eventually disarmed over time. In fact, the oil we don’t spill, the oil we collect, refine and use, produces CO2 and other gases that don’t get diluted.” Carl Safina

By Alex P. Vidal


WHILE Covid-19 causes a respiratory disease to humans, an oil spill can cause an irreparable damage to marine life.In fact, an oil spill in the ocean can be compared to the coronavirus in the land in terms of magnitude of destruction to habitat and human life.When dealing with oil and chemical spills like what happened on July 3 in Iloilo City, Guimaras, and Dumangas, Iloilo, there are many questions that need to be answered. What was spilled? Where is the spill likely to travel in the water? How is the local environment affected now—and how might it be affected down the road? What’s the best way to clean up the spill? How will balance be restored to the environment after the damage has been done?Aside from what happened in Iloilo City recently, there are thousands of oil and chemical spills in coastal waters around the world each year.These spills range from small ship collisions to fuel transfer mishaps to massive spill events.
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After news of the Iloilo power barge explosion in Tank No. 1 of Power Barge 102, which is operated by Ayala-owned AC Energy Philippines spread over the weekend, we remember the oil spill on August 11, 2006, when the oil tanker M/T Solar 1, hired by Petron Corporation, sank off the coast of Guimaras Island, spilling more than 2.1 million liters (about 555,000 gallons) of bunker fuel. As confirmed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Guimaras crisis in 2006 had affected 1,500 hectares (more than 3,700 acres) of the local ecosystem comprised of mangroves, seagrass, and coral reefs.Until today, it is still known as the worst oil spill in the Philippines’ history.We may not immediately notice a massive destruction of marine life in the areas affected by the July 3 Iloilo City oil spill but fish, shellfish, and corals can come into contact with oil once they have been mixed into the water column.
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The release of oil and chemicals into coastal waterways can definitely kill wildlife, destroy habitat, and contaminate critical resources in the food chain. Spills can also wreak havoc on the economies of coastal communities by forcing the closure of fisheries, driving away tourists, or temporarily shutting down navigation routes. And these environmental and economic damages can linger for decades.
Shellfish can also be exposed in the intertidal zone. Adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment when exposed to oil. Also, fish eggs and larvae can be especially sensitive to lethal and sublethal impacts. Oil can make fish and shellfish unsafe for humans to eat even when lethal impacts are not observed.
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Scientists try to pinpoint which areas may have been most affected by a given spill. They do this by looking at the creatures that live in the sediment and analyzing whether or not the sediment has become toxic to these organisms. This kind of “bioeffects” research helps scientists understand how contamination is affecting the food chain.According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS), oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird’s feathers, thus exposing these creatures to the harsh elements. Without the ability to repel water and insulate from the cold water, birds and mammals will reportedly die from hypothermia.It added that juvenile sea turtles can also become trapped in oil and mistake it for food. Dolphins and whales can also inhale oil, which can affect lungs, immune function and reproduction. Many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them, explained the NOS.(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Congressman Gorriceta’s $200 ‘bet’ for Mayweather

“Well, I can fake my way around some things, but I don’t think I would be good at betting.”Diane Lane

By Alex P. Vidal


A WEEK before I left the Philippines to cover the Mayweather Jr. vs Pacquiao 12-round title fight that took place in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015, one of the last persons I met in Iloilo City was then Iloilo second district Rep. Arcadio “Cadio” H. Gorriceta.

It was Gorriceta, also a former mayor of Pavia, Iloilo, who set up our meeting in the morning in a coffee shop inside the Smallville Complex.

Lex, gusto ko lang mabal an ang prediction kag analysis mo sa fight ni (Manny) Pacquiao kag ni (Floyd Jr.) Mayweather (I just want to know your prediction and analysis on the Pacquiao vs Mayweather fight),” explained Rep. Gorriceta, who was carrying a large folder containing the papers for his projects and didn’t drink any coffee.

I did not beat around the bush.

I told Rep. Gorriceta right away “I saw Mayweather winning the bout on points.

”No one is going to win by a knockout, I continued.

He was stunned.

The congressman thought I would tell him Pacquiao would topple the undefeated black American champion, who was trying to eclipse Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 ring ledger.

Ngaa man? (But why?)” Rep. Gorriceta intoned. “Halos tanan naga hambal nga pirdihon gid ni Pacquiao si Mayweather. Damu gani mapusta kay Pacquaio (Most people are saying Pacquiao will defeat Mayweather and they are placing a bet for Pacquiao).”

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After listening to my explanation and brief analysis, Rep. Gorriceta quipped: “Actually naga pamati ako sang mgaanalysis mo sa radyo kag sa newspaper. Kon mag amo sina mapusta na lang ako kay Mayweather. Wala ako naga sugal pero kalingawan lang namon ini sang mga amigo ko (I always listened and read your analysis on the radio and in the newspaper. If that’s the case, I will just place a bet on Mayweather. I’m not a gambler; my friends and I are only having some fun).

”Rep. Gorriceta originally picked the hard-hitting Filipino boxer, but after our conversation, he said he would place a bet of $200 for Mayweather “just for fun.”

We parted ways after about an hour.The Pacquiao vs Mayweather Jr. duel, dubbed as “Fight of the Century” or the “Battle for Greatness” held at the MGM Grand, was won by Mayweather Jr., a scientific fighter, by unanimous decision, with two judges scoring it 116–112 and the other 118–110.

It’s been five years since I left, and I have not spoken to Rep. Gorriceta since then.

I learned that he bade goodbye on July 2, 2020 morning (Philippine time). He was 74.

Rest in peace, Rep. Gorriceta (September 30, 1945-July 2, 2020)

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THE mighty United States of America did not abandon its people in the time of pandemic.

In fact, it looks like America is “pampering” the Americans, to say the least, based on the amount of economic impact payment they have been getting since March.

After the passage in Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on March 27, 2020, House Democrats in May passed their vision for additional relief, dubbed the HEROES Act.

The bill includes a second round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals, allowing for up to $6,000 per household, and would extend the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance benefit through January.

That level of unemployment insurance is currently set to expire at the end of this month.

“We had something where they wanted where it gave you a disincentive to work last time,” President Donald Trump said in the Fox Business interview. “We want to create a very great incentive to work.”

“So we’re working on that, and I’m sure it’ll all come together.”

When asked to clarify if he wanted larger direct payments or larger unemployment benefits, Trump replied: “I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it. I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Ilonggos want a stable power, not finger-pointing

“You get a reputation for stability if you are stable for years.”

—Mark Zuckerberg

By Alex P. Vidal

LET us take into consideration the main interest and priority of power consumers in Iloilo City: a stable power supply.

After they have been annoyed by several unscheduled blackouts, “a stable power supply” is the only language they would always want to hear.

The power consumers may be satisfied that the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) has taken an initial step to address the baffling power outages these past months when it called for a committee investigation on June 30, but they will be more happy if given an assurance that there will be no more power interruptions as immoderate and egregious as the ones that occurred while the residents had been mandated to stay at home amid the pandemic restrictions.

They will be happier if the problem on power outage is resolved soon without hearing one party point an accusing finger at another party.

Uninterrupted power supply is their utmost priority even before the COVID-19 pandemic came; they want it now, and they want it quick.

They are aware that the longer it will take for the SP to act on the matter, the more they will agonize now that we are in the middle of the summer season.

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They may not be interested in the dispute between the More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) and Panay Electric Company (PECO), let alone hear the Department of Energy (DoE) recite some technical terms that will create more perplexing questions than direct answers to their main concerns.

Moreover, the Ilonggo power consumers may scoff at an SP inquiry riddled with so much rancor and extended debate, especially if they feel the commotion will not immediately redound to the quick resolution of the problem.

A long debate means both parties are wrong.

An extended hearing means life will remain unbearable for thousands of power consumers who will end up in the losing end.

The power consumers have a short tolerance when it comes to disruption of their normal lives where the role of electricity is essential and a necessity.

It’s no longer a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s should now be “fix it and stop fighting. Period.”

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NOW that the law on Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) has been passed in the Philippines, let us be reminded that manners are actually important to make a good impression on others in everyday life.

They also help us to feel good about ourselves and our identities.

No matter where we are, at home—with kids, at work—with colleagues, or with friends, practicing good manners are important.

If we practice good manners, we are showing those around us that we are considerate to their feelings and also respect them.

We are also setting standards for other’s behavior and encouraging them to treat us with similar respect.

Florence Lewis of Jobcluster has listed some of the basic examples of good manners and etiquettes:

—Choose your words wisely and don’t rush to comment about things you don’t know much about. Being a good listener is often better than speaking. You don’t need to have an opinion on everything.

—Think things out before you speak, especially if you are a person who may be poor at finding the right words to say. Don’t start a sentence, with ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ in between, it seems awkward and you should try speaking to yourself in front of a mirror, it works! It increases your confident in speaking.

—Don’t speak loudly. You will quickly lose respect if you do, as this can be seen as overbearing and rude. It can also make other people angry and upset with you before you even establish some kind of relationship with them. They will see you as a ‘big mouth’ who cannot be trusted with anything confidential. So practice turning your volume down if you tend to have a loud voice.

—Speak with respect to and of others. You can do this by avoiding negative remarks that may insult someone else. The general rule is- if you don’t want someone to speak about you that way, you don’t speak about them to others.

—Do not ever speak of bodily functions even if it is a casual conversation, such as using the bathroom or telling crude jokes, for this shows sign of immaturity and often creates a bad impression of you with your friends, family, and co-workers.

—Always respect older people and listen to them and learn. This applies to all elders and not just parents and grandparents.

Using the terms ‘Thank You’, and ‘You are Welcome’ shows that you have good manners. People who lack manners do not use these terms.

Hold open a door for anyone following you closely. This is a sign of a good manner and has never changed. There are no strict gender rules in this day and age.

—Speak highly of your parents respect them, even if there are things about them that you do not like. If you cannot do that, stay away from speaking about them at all. It looks bad to insult or speak badly of the people who brought you into this world or raised you. Don’t wash dirty family laundry in public. It is negative and rude.

—Do not swear to use filth language and curse words. It is unprofessional! People who do this are usually very immature and have no self-control or respect for themselves and others!

Good manners are simply respect and consideration for others or being aware of the needs of others.

They are the oil which lubricates the friction of interpersonal relations and creates a happy and successful society.

So, Give Respect and Take Respect!

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Quo vadis, IBC station?

“No solution can ever be found by running in three different directions.”

—Deepak Chopra

By Alex P. Vidal

SOME of them have already died, and some have retired “but they have never enjoyed the fruits of their labor and loyalty to the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC).”

Also, their dreams of seeing the once-splendid IBC managed by a private sector and no longer treated as a second class citizen by the government, have remained in limbo.

One of them was Eduardo “Eddie” Laczi, who had served as Iloilo City councilor after his retirement as area manager of the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-TV12) in Western Visayas.

Laczi died a pauper at 63 in New Haven, Connecticut on October 28, 2013 and reportedly wasn’t able to collect all the benefits due him from the post-EDSA state-sequestered TV station.

The 60-year-old station officially known as IBC-13, now under the management of the Philippine Communications Office, also reportedly owes more than a million pesos in unpaid benefits to former Capiz-based DyJJ station manager Edgardo “Jun” Arbolado, among other former employees and executives.

Arbolado, 52, who had also served as IBC-TV12 area manager before relocating to Virginia, USA in 2008, blamed certain “organic officials” in the management “who did not have the courtesy to officially tell me of the status of my freaking retirement benefit.”

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Arbolado bewailed that he never received a single letter or even a text message on the inquiries he made regarding his unpaid benefits.

Some “neglected” regular employees are also reportedly still hopeful that only IBC’s privatization can lift them from dire straits and solve the TV station’s apparent lackluster state.

But what are the chances that in the remaining two and a half years of the Duterte administration, the IBC-13 will finally be privatized?

It almost reportedly happened, at least during the brief stint of hitherto

president and CEO Kathe­rine Chloe de Castro, who was appointed to the position in August 2018.

“I’m also hoping to bring IBC-13 to the age of streaming which is where everyone in entertainment and broadcast is headed these days, and all these are ultimately geared toward the goal of making the network an attractive investment for privatization,” declared de Castro, as quoted by The Manila Times’ Tessa Mauricio-Arriola in an article on March 8, 2019.

“I find it very challenging to be part of the group that will oversee this crucial phase in IBC-13’s history.”

The “problem” is, “Kath de Castro had been ‘promoted’ to PTV-4 and the optimism she started with IBC-13 had been put to waste,” lamented Arbolado.

“Like the previous administrations since Cory’s, PRRD’s is no different unfortunately, in failing to make things work for IBC-13, despite the high expectations that privatization of the network will take place during Digong’s term. Including myself, many retirees (some have died painfully without enjoying the fruits of their toils and loyalty) have been waiting for decades our retirement benefits. IBC-13 management had been marred by incompetencies and corruption and while many Filipinos over-dramatized the demise of ABS-CBN, the plight of IBC-13 ‘The Orginal No. 1’ and its employees and retirees have been totally ignored.”

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Back in January 2016, then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III approved the planned privatization of IBC through the Governance Commission for Government-owned and-controlled corporation (GCG).

According to plans, the privatization would undergo a public bidding with an estimated floor price of 10 billion.

Proceeds of the bidding would be reportedly for the increase of state-owned PTV-4’s capital to upgrade and modernize their broadcast capabilities.

The Development Bank of the Philippines had been designated as the privatization’s financial sentinel.

Under the Duterte administration, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, which would coordinate with the GCG, reportedly submitted the privatization plan to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

IBC’s privatization process had supposedly started in October 2016.

Five groups reportedly showed interest to join the bidding process as of December 2016. They were: Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and the groups of former IBC president and current RMN president/CEO Eric Canoy and former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson, energy tycoon and Udenna Corporation chairman Dennis Uy (who recently recent acquired the ISM Communications Corporation) and Davao trader William Lima.

There seems to be “no movement” since then.

It looks like de Castro’s “departure” from the IBC, the apparent lack of interest of some officials who fear they might become “irrelevant” once the IBC has been privatized, and the COVID-19, have conspired to again derail the privatization process.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Herbert Vego: A quality journalist on board

“No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods.”

—Socrates

By Alex P. Vidal

IF I were a newspaper or magazine publisher, I would take good care of Herbert L. Vego in whatever means and in whatever capacity and circumstance.

With his experience and solid reputation, he is not only an institution in the media industry in Western Visayas, Mr. Vego is also a quality community journalist and one of the most credible and highly respected media godfathers alive today.

Having him on board in any media outlet is like having a LeBron James in the basketball team; it’s like playing alongside David Beckham in the World Cup; or hobnobbing with Kofi Annan in the United Nations.

In this lifetime, there can be no one else like Mr. Vego in as far as being a paragon in community journalism is concerned.

In terms of character, decency, intellect, values, and gracefulness, seasoned journalist Herbert Vego is notches higher and a cut above the rest.

In this generation when the “young ones” in the media almost have a shortage of role models to look up to among the “young once”, soft-spoken Mr. Vego fills the vacuum.   

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Seventy-year-old Vego spent his early years in journalism in showbiz even before the Martial Law in the early 70s, and has been writing for nearly 50 years now; yet, he isn’t rich.

He has broken bread with the who’s who in the world of entertainment, business, diplomacy, religion, sports, and politics, yet his name is not there on the elite list of media’s “Forbes” for the rich and famous.

He still regularly attends in the regular press conferences and other news-gathering events, an imagery that can be likened to jurassic Juan Ponce Enrile in the company of grandchildren Julienne Baronda, Mike Gorriceta, Raul Tupas, Braden John Biron, and Lorenz Defensor.

Had Mr. Vego practiced in Metro Manila, or if he had chosen another lucrative profession when he was 50 years younger, he would now be living in a posh Manny Villar-model gated subdivision if he didn’t own a pricey condo unit in Pasig.

If he didn’t stick to local journalism and became a real estate broker, a government appointee, a diplomat, or an STL franchisee, Mr. Vego would now be driving a Cadillac and jet-setting across Macau to Munich, Hanoi to Cologne, and Zaire to Karachi vice versa for his regular vacation trips.

But his brand of existentialism, his towering love for journalism, and passion for writing had brought him to a life in the Coliboaia Cave, so to speak, instead of the kind of lifestyle where he could saunter in the glamour of paradise and the glitzy world of luxury.

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Even when he was making a name in Metro Manila jockeying for some arcane magazines and periodicals, Mr. Vego was aware there’s no money in journalism.

Unless he engaged in a pyramid scam, purchased his way for a slot in the House of Representatives party-list, became a gambling lord, or dabbled in trafficking of illegal drugs, he knew journalism would only give him peanuts, crumbs and tears, not pelfs and privileges, not a Ford Expedition, an investment in the stock market, or a Tagaytay rest house like the ones being enjoyed by some of his contemporaries in Metro Manila who had shifted to other profitable careers.

Despite a looming economic uncertainty, Mr. Vego decided to return from Manila to Iloilo 40 years ago and opted to stay for good to embrace his first love: journalism.  

He has written dozens of articles detailing why sticking to journalism as a career is equivalent to a vow of poverty like monks and hermits.

In those articles, he empathetically gave his readers a front seat view why journalists like him can never gain some inroads in the pursuit of material wealth.

Despite struggling for decades eking out a decent living in the world of letters, the formula of success could only give Mr. Vego citations and certificates, praises, respect from politicians and fellow media workers, and inner satisfaction, but not financial rewards enough to provide for himself and give his family a comfortable and secure life.  

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Mr. Vego epitomizes the predicament of an enterprising journalist in the Philippines with no security of tenure, no regular employment benefits, and who now faces the grim prospect of retiring a pauper and leaving only a pair of sandals for his loved ones.

Journalists also need a healthcare and regular medical checkups just like other laborers.

We have heard depressing stories before about other senior colleagues who had to grapple as indigents during their last days on earth because they didn’t have enough funds during rainy season.  

Mr. Vego can now be actually considered as semi-retired, but journalists, grizzled column writers in Mr. Vego’s caliber, don’t have a retirement.

We write as long as we have the capacity to think and can still hit the keyboard.

Sickness and old age can’t cripple and obliterate our passion to write and remain in the mainstream.

There have been scores of never-say-quit journalists in sickbed who continued to pound the keys of their typewriters and computers until they could no longer resist death.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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A Babel once again

“If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without climbing it, it would have been permitted.”

—Franz Kafka

By Alex P. Vidal

WE have now become a Babel, or a story about a city in Shinar where the building of a tower is held in Genesis to have been halted by the confusion of tongues.

What’s happening in the Philippines is actually like a scene of noise or confusion.

While things are apparently quite in the local front, the country is on the brink of chaos once again what with so many opinions clashing whether the anti-terror bill will violate the human rights of the Filipinos, or save them from home-grown terrorists like those who authored the mayhem in Marawi City three years ago.

It’s now up for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to turn it into law.

There are strong indications the proponents will have the last laugh on the furor.

Hardly had the duel of opinions on anti-terror bill simmered down in the streets and in the media fora, another wave of controversy distracted the nation from its uproarious battle against the COVID-19.

The conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. by the trial court for “cyberlibel” on June 16 has placed the Philippines in the global radar once more.

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This double whammy came in quick succession as the President was worrying where to get the next stimulus fund for the families sidelined and “impoverished” by the pandemic-initiated lockdown.

People were again divided whether the Manila court verdict was “a portent of things to come” for the freedom of the press and expression or “it should serve as a wake up call” for journalists to be more responsible and accountable when criticizing people who don’t belong in government.

Others have condemned the verdict as setting “an extraordinarily damaging precedent.”

The ruling was issued by a court in Manila, where attendance was limited due to coronavirus prevention measures. The news website Rappler, Ressa, its executive editor, and former researcher and writer  Santos Jr were accused of cyberlibel over a story that alleged links between a businessman and a top judge.

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Rappler was found to have no liability, but both Ressa and Santos were found guilty.

The court ruled that they are entitled to post-conviction bail, and can appeal against the verdict. The convicted journalists have been ordered to pay P200,000 in moral damages and another P200,000 in exemplary damages.

Rappler and its officers and staff have faced at least 11 investigations and court cases even as press freedom advocates decry that media freedom in the Philippines has deteriorated severely under the Duterte administration.

Out of 180 countries, the Philippines now ranks 136th on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.

It was reported that journalists have been targeted through judicial harassment, online campaigns waged by pro-Duterte troll armies, and violence.

Local politicians, it warned, “can have reporters silenced with complete impunity”.

Earlier in May, ABS-CBN, was forced off air by a cease-and-desist order that press freedom advocates condemned as a brazen attempt to silence the press.

Soon after, the new anti-terrorism act has been passed in congress that allows warrantless arrests, weeks of detention without charge and other powers that rights groups fear could be used against government critics.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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