Anti-Social Media: Primae donnae at a press conference

Here’s a story from the sidelines that our friends at Spinbusters may have missed: Reportorial feathers were ruffled at a press conference by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad last Thursday because reporters on the Finance beat wanted first crack at the secretary. read more »

Same Old Story

Here’s a development that surprised few but disappointed many: The Makabayan Coalition, an alliance of progressive party-list organizations promising a new brand of politics, has admitted guest candidates to its slate.

None of them is a new name and Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño’s justification for the team-up is as old as Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, who, at 86, is the oldest lawmaker in Congress.

Citing the principle of “politics is addition,” Casiño said he and the guest candidates would “mutually” benefit from the alliance.

Makabayan Coalition has thrown its support behind Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Aquilino Pimentel III, former Las Piñas representative Cynthia Villar and former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chair Grace Poe Llamanzares, calling them, along with Casiño, the “Senate Champions.”

Escudero and Legarda are already old hands at the Senate while Pimentel is seeking his second term. Villar is the wife of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. and mother of Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar. Escudero, Pimentel, and Villar are from political families.

Escudero, Legarda, and Llamanzares are common candidates of the two big coalitions fielding candidates in the 2013 elections, the administration’s and the also-administration-but-not-as-much United Nationalist Alliance.

Villar is an official candidate of the administration coalition while Escudero and Pimentel are friendly to Malacañang. Casiño is not and has been critical of the Aquino administration, but that apparently doesn’t matter as long as everybody’s happy.

Casiño, before he officially filed his candidacy, promised an alternative to “basically the same names, faces and vested interests that have dominated Philippine politics for decades.” His challenge then: “Wala na bang iba?” Is there nobody else?

That question has apparently been answered.

Upper House of Hypocrisy

Vitaliano Aguirre


Remember this guy?

He was cited for contempt during the Corona impeachment trial for covering his ears while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago railed at the prosecution for being gago and epal and all sorts of things. This, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said was “a sign of disrespect to a member in this court and that can’t be allowed to pass and must be dealt with according to the rules.”

He was escorted out of the Senate session hall and was banned from appearing before the Senate impeachment court again. All this for covering his ears because a senator was screaming her lungs out. But that is understandable. We must, after all, protect the dignity of the Senate as an institution.

But nothing at all from our esteemed senators over a clear and present danger to the dignity the Senate holds so dearly and guards so jealously: its own majority floor leader making a mockery of discourse, intellectual property, and of the Senate itself.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, ending his multi-part turno en contra (literally “turn against”) speech against the Reproductive Health bill, appears to have appropriated parts of a speech made by the late U.S. senator Robert Kennedy in 1966 and claimed them as his own.

His response to critics who said he had copied someone else’s words again:

I found the idea good. I translated it into Tagalog [Filipino]. So what’s the problem?” Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when asked about his reaction to the fresh accusations.

“Ano? Marunong nang mag-Tagalog si Kennedy? (What now? Does Kennedy now know how to speak in Tagalog)?” he added.

This, apparently, is par for the course at the Sotto School of Rhetoric. Last month, when he was accused of stealing content from a U.S.-based blogger for use in his speech, he dismissed the accusation as silly.

When his staff later admitted to copying from the blog but without Sotto’s knowledge, the defenses became doubly damning: That copying is normal at the Senate, and that it is all right because it is not a crime.

Despite that, there has been nothing but support from the Senate. Neither Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago nor Senator Pia Cayetano, who are pushing passage of the Reproductive Health bill have said anything.

Enrile has dismissed the plagiarism allegations saying the copying was done in good faith and what matters is whether the copied content was factual or not. Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada’s reaction is even more reason to damn the whole Upper House of Hypocrisy: “I have no business meddling in the affairs of other senators.”

This from an institution that holds hearings on the barest hint of corruption and the slightest chance of TV time. This from an institution that earlier this year voted to remove then Chief justice Renato Corona from office for lying on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. This from a Senate that actually did meddle in the affairs of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. when he was accused of getting rich on a supposedly diverted road extension project.

And So It Goes

And so we find the strongest political coalition before the 2010 elections reduced to a fractious faction who apparently will eagerly turn on each other at the drop of a hat.

Former political giant Lakas-Kampi-CMD this week lost one of the few members who actually did stuff: Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

"Screw you guys. I'm going home."

Lagman stepped down weeks after declaring he still had the support of most of the 29 members of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives. The two Arroyo sons in Congress, who had earlier pledged loyalty to Lagman, have reportedly decided to back Suarez instead.

I cannot continue serving a political aggrupation which deliberately refuses to recognize competent, militant and responsible leadership and would opt to follow blindly the importuning of former President Arroyo,” he added.

Lagman earlier accused Arroyo of planning his ouster after meeting with (Quezon Representative Danilo) Suarez and several of her close allies in her hospital suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center two weeks ago.

With Lagman–veteran debater, foil to the administration, and principal author of the Reproductive Health bill at the House–gone, the minority is left with Suarez, who does not have much of a record of objecting to things except in the issue of taxes owed to his province by an energy company. He was a staunch ally of then President Joseph Estrada before switching to the Arroyo team. We hazard that given a choice, he would gladly jump this ship and join the Aquino administration if it will have him.

Other erstwhile allies have either joined the administration Liberal Party directly or, through the new National Unity Party that is part of the House majority.

At any rate, Lakas-Kampi-CMD has little strength left, and even less allies. With just 28 members left, a number that may yet dwindle as the 2013 elections loom, there is little that the minority can do now except make ineffectual noise, if that.

(Almost) Burning Down The House

Your correspondent would not have had anywhere to post from had a fire that broke out at the House of Representatives been serious, and not just trolling.

Although the House has its own firetrucks, much like many of the congressmen at the House, they do not work:

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, was dismayed after fire trucks inside the Batasan Pambansa complex which responded to the incident were (found) not functioning.

“I just want to find out why nobody is saying or even informed us that the fire truck is not functioning but I am unhappy,” Belmonte said.


Belmonte has reportedly summoned the House’s engineering department to explain. Fire trucks from nearby barangays Commonwealth and Fairview were first on the scene even though, technically, House fire trucks were already there.

House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap said there was no actual fire.

In a text message, she said the smoke was caused by faulty wiring inside the electrical box near the building’s elevator.

As a result of the incident, House employees whose offices were affected by the power-line spark were sent home.

Barua-Yap said personnel from the House engineering department and the Quezon City fire department were fixing the situation as of posting time.

Members of the House, on vacation when the incident happened, cursed at the ill timing of the potentially convenient excuse to skip the afternoon legislative session.

(thx, House Indio)

Just Another Day At The Office

Our friends at Congressional Observer (who are even more indolent than us when it comes to updates) report the House of Representatives has been as quiet as a tomb these past few weeks.

Have you ever seen a Congress that is really quiet? During session breaks, it is really a ghost town. With the exception of a few personnel with security, ancillary and auxiliary functions, Congress is indeed silent.

Check it out:

North Wing Lobby, House of Representatives


Second Floor, North Wing

With our honorable congressmen and -women presumably in their home districts (but actually lording it up in some foreign land, most probably), the halls of the House are haunted only by bills still-born or talked to death. Like the past versions of the Reproductive Health bill and the various bills against political dynasties that have gathered dust in committees headed by members of political dynasties.

Ah, but hope springs eternal!

 All Congress employees will get back to work on November 8. Most of the Chamber’s 285 members (that’s Congressmen and Congresswomen for you) will get back to work on November 14 after a month off from legislative work.

Which, actually means very little.

As this picture tweeted by Kabataan Party-List Representative Mong Palatino shows, most congressmen are on vacation even when Congress is in session:

Says Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino: "It's an empty house, and it's only 6pm"

Anyway, see you on the 14th, House-mates! ;p

Congress: Serious Business

This is why we can’t have nice things like a law authorizing the government to talk to women about contraception and reproductive rights.

Says Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino: "It's an empty house, and it's only 6pm"


No wonder reporters on the House beat have resorted to intrigues and infighting. This place is so dead two hours after the session is supposed to start, they cannot be blamed for looking for more interesting things to think about, like what that guy meant when he posted that thing on Facebook, or how many congressmen to offer PR services to while still serving as a reporter on a daily broadsheet. I mean, it’s not like there’s much else to do.

Most days, congressmen just come in for the roll call (if they bother to come at all) and then retire to the House lounge to gather their strength after the extreme effort of appearing at the House. Those that stay behind listen to debates, chatter among themselves, or play Angry Birds.

(Thx, Twitter account of Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino!)

A wild Senator Lapid Appears!

A rare sighting of Senator Manuel Lapid has him giving his views on the controversial Reproductive Health bill and basically giving proof of life. This interview with Lapid is “rare” not because the senator hates talking to people but because seeing him at the Senate is just as rare.


This photograph wasn’t even taken at the Senate. This was at Sofitel, the hotel outside the Senate, where he met with fellow mythical creatures the Sigbin, Loch Ness Monster, and the Baiji Chinese River Dolphin.

It was probably a pool party

Philippines to outlaw planking

Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo has filed a bill to penalize the stupid art of planking after students protesting oil price hikes this week planked on the roads during a transport strike.


“Parents and teachers have reason to be alarmed… The Filipino psyche of our young children in school is under attack—right here and now,” he said. The congressman  from the 2nd District of Quezon City, where rugby boys roam the streets and illegal motorcycle drag races are held at night, is right, the psyche of our young children are indeed under attack. By pesky things like poverty and hopelessness. And, to some extent, by Internet memes. But only to the same extent that watching mixed-martial arts on YouTube will make me a violent bloodthirsty man with killer muscles.


Help me! My psyche is being attacked!


Castelo warns “unbelieving bus drivers and law enforcement authorities might just ram through these warm and living bodies rolled out on highways.” Which, really, is the only way to deal with somebody who has suddenly decided to plop face down on the road.

"Okay...You can stop faking now..."

“Lest this picture, read in newspapers or posted on the Internet might evolve into a new mindset that just might go viral or very contagious, let it be nipped in the bud,” Castelo says, not knowing that he has nothing to worry about. He ought to know that by the time a fad comes to the Philippines, it is on its last legs. If it isn’t broken already, we’ll find a way to make it so. This is the Philippines, after all. This is where the Internet comes to die.


UPDATE 2: Planking will only be illegal during rallies and protest actions. Regular old planking is allowed and bus drivers are free to run them over.


UPDATE: Here is an actual quote from Rep. Castelo’s press release, a copy of which was forwarded to us:

“Parents and teachers have reason to be alarmed if these similar protest actions will have as a scheme and scene otherwise warm and living bodies laid down across street highways as though they were offerings to the gods.”

Ngai, n'gha'ghaa, bugg-shoggog, y'hah; Yog-Sothoth, Yog-Sothoth. . . .



Mr. Pacquiao To Go From Congress

"You have the floor, Mr. Speaker."


Little more than a year into a three-year term, Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao has already had enough of the House of Representatives and wants to move to the Sarangani provincial capitol in 2013.

The professional boxer and part-time congressman is reportedly “[dismayed] over the slow pace of how changes for the country are made within the compounds of Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.”

“I want to experience serving in the executive. And I prefer making decisions when to implement the laws and I want these laws implemented immediately. But here in Congress, if you want to file (a bill), you have to wait for several months (before implementing it),” Pacquiao said.

And although Pacquiao is right, he may have considered that before running for Congress in the first place. His 2010 bid for a House seat in Sarangani province was not his first. He ran, but lost, in 2007. And that gave him three years to think about what Congress is, what it does, and how long it takes to do it, before deciding to run again.

And it’s not like he has had to twiddle his thumbs while the slow wheels of legislation grind exceedingly slow. He’s off boxing, or training to box, or having dinner with Paris Hilton most of the time, anyway.

Of course, things were different during the run up to the elections. According to a report on Japan Times:

“I want to help them because I know what they feel right now. It is not easy to help other people. That is a big responsibility. I will focus on that for the meantime,” he said.

And he did. Right until he won and had to train for another fight.

But, if nothing else, at least Pacquiao’s decision to run for governor is good news for the people of Sarangani. With his political plans made public this soon, Pacquiao can spend the time crafting legislation that he, as a potential governor, thinks will help his province. He can work with the Sarangani provincial board to create a legislative agenda that they can use when he moves to the capital. He can–

Pacquiao also said he would rather concentrate on boxing first instead of politics, especially in view of his upcoming rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico.”