Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blaring Simbang Gabi sound speakers and the flagging Christmas spirit

The blaring sound system speakers of a Simbang Gabi pre-dawn mass being held at a not-so-nearby church rather irreverently woke me up from my sleep a few days ago. While already an "eclectic" and simultaneously pro-evolution believer, I've been raised a Catholic such that I still hold some respect for the religion of the Pope. However, the irksomeness that an unconsummated sleep naturally brings has led me to reflect on what the Christmas and Catholic traditions have become in the Philippines. While church bells have indeed been traditionally used to announce the start of the celebration of the mass, particularly those held at Christmas dawn, is there really a need to broadcast the entire Mass service to half the town through full-blasted speakers at 4 am in the morning? Intended to beckon the faithful to take part in a merry religious tradition, it's appears to be a despairing move of the bishops to buoy up a tradition that is slowly dying under the reign of political evil the Philippine Catholic Church itself is partly responsible for.

Simbang Gabi and the Festive Filipino Christmas

Christmas as a religious festival is said to have its longest manifestation in the Southeast Asian archipelago of the Philippine Islands. Filipino celebration of the season is also one of the merriest, combining generous Spanish-taught religiosity and festivity with American secularism to produce a celebration filled with the colors of beautiful lanterns and Christmas tree lights, richness of traditional rice cakes and Western-introduced food must-haves, spiritual enrichment the Catholic way, merriment gained from gifts and gift-buying, and the gaiety of socializing for which Filipinos are fond of. The religious highlight of the season is the Simbang Gabi, or Rooster's Mass, which is a 9-day tradition of dawn masses that starts on December 16 and ends on the 24th.

Simbang Gabi is actually a novena to the Virgin Mother that culminates with the Christmas Eve mass termed "Missa de Gallo." The tradition of pre-dawn masses traces its roots to the Spanish colonial period in Mexico when Pope Sixtus V granted the petition for outdoor Eucharistic celebration in order to accommodate the big number of faithful flocking the churches. The pealing of the church bells announced the start of the pre-dawn masses, with rural farmers and fishermen waking up early to listen to the Gospel before embarking on their way to work.

Elements of Simbang Gabi that have survived to the modern times in the Philippines are the colorful lights and lanterns or "parol" hung in every window of houses, the singing or playing of yuletide songs in both Tagalog and English, hearing of the mass by the entire, or at least most members of the, family, modest after-dawn mass feast on native delicacies like puto bumbong; the climax comes after the Christmas eve mass when the whole family gathers to celebrate Noche Buena with a generous feast of various delicious delicacies and dishes such as queso de bola, puto bumbong, bibingka, rice cakes, Chinese ham and hot chocolate or salabat.

Filipino Christmas on the Decline

The post-millennium decade, however, has seen a markedly noticeable decline in the colors and merriment of Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebration as a whole. As recently as the 1970s and early 1980s, the start of the "ber" months (September until December) already signaled the coming Christmas season, raising gleeful anticipation among Filipinos. Come the mid-to-the-late 1990s, the Christmas spirit and its materialistic expressions seemed to have moved further down the "ber" months. Outside the often artificial buoying up of Christmas spirit in the TV and other media, the early years following the turn-of-the-millennium definitely confined Yuletide thoughts and gifts-buying among the greater majority of the people of the Philippine Islands to the Christmas month proper, December.

An analysis of nationwide yearly surveys by the Pulse Asia research institution show how majority of Filipinos have consistently harbored anticipations of a less prosperous Christmas season in recent years compared to better times. A majority of Filipinos expected the 2005 Christmas season to be poorer than the preceding year, 2004, and beginning 2006 until 2008, an overwhelming majority have expressed expectations that the season of Christmas will only be the same as the previous years in terms of prosperity. In effect, the four-year periodic studies bare how the Filipinos' annual views and feelings of Christmas prosperity have generally remained much lower than 2004 levels. Even in terms of the spiritual aspect, there have been less people hearing mass, particularly among the young people, as according to the observations made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) itself during the Simbang Gabi period in 2005.

Hunger and Suffering under the Wicked Reign of Arroyo, the Illegitimate President

Materially and spiritually, the Christmas seasons in the Philippines have now been running shorter and bleaker. With less houses lit with Christmas lights and parol, shorter anticipation of and preparation for the Yuletide, and less mass attendance, it is not hard to conclude that the overall Filipino Christmas spirit is on the decline and under siege.

Material-wise, the bad state of the economy under the scandal-laden Gloria Arroyo administration has apparently been responsible for the less and less merry Christmases of Filipinos. This is hardly surprising since the highest levels of total hunger and of total poverty are all registered during Arroyo's time. The latest 2008 4th quarter Social Weather Stations or SWS survey shows the highest ever level of hunger in the country, beating the previous percentage high of 21.7 in September 2007. An estimated 23.7 % of Filipino households, or a record-high of around 4.3 million families have been suffering involuntary hunger at least once in the preceding three months.

Catholic Church Culpability

That Christmases in the Philippines have become less bright in both material and non-material terms are perhaps to be expected when the nation wallows in the darkness of an immoral leadership. Beginning from the unconstitutional ouster of President Joseph Estrada to pave the way for the installation of the power grabbing Arroyo in January 2001, the Constitution and democratic institutions of the Philippines have been mangled and corrupted, alongside the crumpling of the sacred right of suffrage of Filipino citizens. Crucial to the success of the EDSA 2 mob that deposed the hugely-popular-with-the-masses Estrada and installed bogus "President" Arroyo is the support of the Manila portion of the Catholic Church led by then Cardinal Jaime Sin.

Seemingly blinded by Arroyo's facade of Catholic religiosity, then-archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila committed the seditious sin of going against Caesar by conspiring with then-Vice President Arroyo, former presidents Fidel Ramos and Cory Aquino, Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide, and certain elite members of business, military, and even the media to grab the presidency using the cloak of "People Power." Cardinal Sin first exhorted Filipino Catholics, including minors from Manila Catholic schools, to rally and pressure Estrada into resigning. When it became clear that the properly President would not give up, to depose him only 2 1/2 years into his term, supposedly on corruption and moral grounds.

Unpopular Political Move by the Catholic Church

The decision by Cardinal Sin to conspire in ousting Estrada and installing then Vice-President Arroyo was illogical at best, and undivinely inspired at worst. Two months before the EDSA 2 uprising, following allegations of jueteng-related corruption against Estrada, an SWS nationwide survey showed that majority of Filipinos wanted Arroyo to support and not to criticize the President. Another SWS survey in December showed that Estrada still enjoyed a total of +9 percent satisfaction rating, in contrast to Arroyo whose public approval nosedived to -4 percent.

The SWS poll commissioned by ABS-CBN on January 6-9, 2001 during the Estrada impeachment trial clearly reveals how Estrada was still trusted by the people (+11 national net rating), as his perceived antagonists became distrusted. Arroyo received a dismal -34 trust ratings in the National Capital Region alone, and all-negative figures across all socio-economic classes. The public trust of the anti-Estrada former presidents Fidel Ramos and Cory Aquino also plunged to practically double-digit negatives. Most astonishingly, the level of trust towards Cardinal Sin plunged to -4 and 0 percentage points in December 2000 and January 2001, respectively.

Estrada, who is viewed as the only post-Martial Law President to have ascended to the presidency with a clear mandate from the people, became a victim of a coup d etat conspiracy blessed by the powerful Catholic Church. Commenting on the developments surrounding EDSA 2 and the ouster of Estrada, Time Asia predicted with a rather uncanny wisdom of foresight how "One loser among the coup makers will be the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and his church." In a pro-agrarian prayer rally only this December 2008, the farmers were practically asking the bishops to "turn against" Arroyo and be solid in fighting corruption and upholding social justice.

It thus appears that the disillusionment with the political bias of the bishops have caused the Church less adherents or less attendance in their Simbang Gabi and regular Eucharistic services. The real losers, of course, are the Filipino masses who now have barely enough to put on the Christmas table. Forced to contend with a traitor Vice-President who grabbed power, and who is widely regarded to have cheated in the 2004 elections and to be the "Most Corrupt President in Philippine History," the masses, especially, have borne the severe effects of the illegitimate, immoral and deceptive, self-aggrandizing, and callously unpatriotic administration of Gloria Arroyo.

Scandals after scandals--from the IMPSA power plant deal, to the "Hello Garci?" electoral fraud, Malacanang bribery scandal, to the Bolante fertilizer scam, the "guilty" verdict on Estrada plunder case, the infamous NBN-ZTE project, and everything in between--have eroded the people's faith in government and in the Catholic Church. Even international anti-corruption and human rights watchdogs and lending institutions, such as Transparency International, Amnesty International, World Bank, Bertelsmann Foundation, Worldwide Governance Indicators, MCC and even the European Union have not failed to notice, eventually either castigating Arroyo or impeding loan/aid releases.

Bringing Back the National Christmas Spirit

Loudly blaring the external church audio speakers so the rest of the community can celebrate the Simbang Gabi Eucharist won't enliven Christmas, nor bring disillusioned Catholics back into the novena tradition because artificial just don't cut it. As much as Christmas is the season of loving and forgiving, so is it a time for celebrating and pursuing goodness and shunning evil. An essential element to goodness is to admit to a wrong, no matter how heinous and collective, so that the wrong can be undone.

Just recently, Ex-President Aquino recently publicly admitted to her wrongful part in the EDSA 2 uprising, and apologized to the deposed and defamed President Estrada in no uncategorical terms. The Filipino cardinals and bishops can do no less. Archbishop Oscar Cruz has already written about Arroyo's "consistent high rating in corruption in form of big guile and gross deceit in the management of public funds [and] a continuous low grade of approval in terms of pervasive distrust and enormous dissatisfaction." However, if the local Catholic Church is to regain its moral ascendancy in the Philippines, the CBCP would have to officially admit to their seditious role in EDSA 2 with as much consensus as they wielded in calling for Estrada's resignation and ouster back in 2000-early 2001, and in installing and continuing to support an Arroyo who never had the genuine mandate to serve as president. Next step is to help give back to the Filipinos the right to be governed by the leader they have truly elected and not just any one falsely legitimized by a conspiracy of powerful elites.

Undoing the terrible wrong that is Arroyo is righteous because it is the spiritual and social responsibility of the Church to fight the cloud of evil reigning in the land. It has erred against the people and against the Church when it conspired against a properly elected president. Only by helping ensure righteous and popular governance in the land can there be a chance of regaining the Filipino Christmas spirit that is merry in both righteousness and material grace. ____________


Additional Findings on Corruption-Related Issues (Most/Least Corrupt Philippine Presidents). Pulse Asia Site. 2007. http://pulseasia.com.ph/pulseasia/story.asp?id=632

Bernardo, Jesusa. "The conspiracy of EDSA 2: how Gloria Arroyo managed not to let President Joseph Estrada finish his term." Newsvine. 25 January 2008. http://jesusabernardo.newsvine.com/_news/2008/02/25/1324358-the-conspiracy-of-edsa-2-how-gloria-arroyo-managed-not-to-let-president-joseph-estrada-finish-his-term

"Cory sorry she helped oust Erap." ABS-CBN Site. 22 December 2008. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/12/22/08/cory-sorry-she-helped-oust-erap-2001

Cruz, Oscar. "Highest in corruption, lowest in approval." The Daily Tribune. 22 November 2007. http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20071122com5.html

Filipinos prefer GMA to support, not criticize, the Estrada administration --- SWS Survey . Social Weather Stations Site. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr_81100.htm

Fourth Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: Hunger at new record-high 23.7% of families; Moderate Hunger at 18.5%, Severe Hunger at 5.2%. Social Weather Stations Site. 22 December 2008. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr081222.htm

January 27, 2001: SWS SURVEY ON PEOPLE POWER 2 AND CHANGE IN THE PRESIDENCY Table 7. Social Weather Stations. http://www.sws.org.ph/atin-t7.htm

Mangahas, Mahar. SOCIAL CLIMATE:JANUARY 2001. Updated 29 January 2001. Social Weather Stations. http://www.sws.org.ph/jan01.htm

Power Grab From President Joseph Estrada. YouTube Site. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh9bECSgfqk

Pulse Asia's October 2008 Nationwide Survey on the Holiday Season and Religiosity of Filipinos. Pulse Asia Site. 16 December 2008. http://pulseasia.com.ph/pulseasia/story.asp?ID=661

Punay, Edu. CBCP: Fewer young people going to Mass. The Philippine Star. 19 December 2005. In Newsflash Site: http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/ht/ht005740.htm

Simbang Gabi. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila Site. http://www.rcam.org/library/SIMBANG_GABI.htm. Table 1: Holiday Season (October 2005 to October 2008/Philippines. Pulse Asia Site. http://pulseasia.com.ph/resources/photos/table1_Holiday_UB0810.gif

The Most Corrupt President in Philippine History: Table 2. PulseAsia Site. http://pulseasia.com.ph/resources/photos/table2_corruption_0710.gif

Third Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: Hunger rises to 18.4%; Moderate Hunger is up by 3, Severe Hunger is down by 1. 20 October 2008. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr081020.htm

Third Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: Self-Rated Poverty is 52%, Self-Rated Food Poverty is 38%. 8 December 2008. SWS Site. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr081208.htm

"Saksi: Cory apologizes for taking part in People Power 2." GMA News. http://www.gmanews.tv/video/33611/Saksi-Cory-apologizes-for-taking-part-in-People-Power-2

SWS SPECIAL MEDIA RELEASE: 22 December 2000. Social Weather Stations Site. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr122200.htm

Photo Credits:






Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gat Andres Bonifacio: The Anti-Colonial National Hero of the Philippines (Bonifacio Series I)

  • EVERY November 30, the Philippines celebrates Bonifacio Day to commemorate the birthday of the Father of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio y de Castro. The second foremost figure in the country's pantheon of heroes, he is in fact regarded by Filipino nationalists more highly than the only one other but 'more official' national hero,* Jose Rizal, who is criticized as having been an "American-sponsored hero" chosen by the United States colonial government over the "too radical" Bonifacio and the 'Sublime Paralytic' Apolinario Mabini.

    The Anti-Colonial National Hero

    Rizal, writes eminent historian Renato Constantino, was undoubtedly a great Filipino--true martyr and patriot-- but the fact remains that veneration to him was promoted by the US colonial government because among others, he did not advocate independence, neither armed resistance to the government. This, in contrast to Bonifacio, who founded the revolutionary secret society Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang manga Anak nang Bayan ((KKK), and subsequently launched the revolution against Spanish colonial rule. Choosing the "unregenerate" Mabini, who lived long enough to support continued war against America well into his last years, or Bonifacio, who clearly aimed for independence for his country, would have been counter to the colonial policy of the new imperialist master.

    Supremo of the Filipino Revolutionary Government

    Bonifacio, in fact, formed the first national government of the natives with the intent and vision that the Katipunan would govern the islands after any overthrow of Spanish colonial rule. Beyond being a secret militant organization, the Katipunan was a revolutionary government with a bureaucratic framework, own set of laws and founded on democratic and moral principles summed up under the KKK Cartilla or primer. Even the US Library of Congress record proves such to an extent: "the Katipunan insinuated itself into the community by setting up mutual aid societies and education for the poor." The same text points to how Bonifacio, with a 30,000-strong** KKK "proclaimed Filipino independence on August 23, 1896."***

    After the Katipuneros launched the uprising against the Spaniards, the "Great Plebeian" hero set out to transform the national secret organization into an open and de facto revolutionary government. The founder of the Katipunan became the president and headed a cabinet composed of those he trusted, including Emilio Jacinto, Secretary of State; Teodoro Plata, War; Aguado del Rosario, Interior; Briccio Pantas, Justice; and Enrique Pacheco, as Secretary of Finance. While certain historians had tried to downplay or dispute his formation and leadership of the earliest national government by and of the Filipinos, clear evidence that had only quite recently been made available bestows on Andres Bonifacio the glorious, unequivocal title of being the truly first President of the Philippine Revolutionary Government.

    Surviving official letterhead communications dated 1897 point to the great hero’s various designations that include being the "Supreme President, Government of the Revolution." Perhaps the most telling proofs come from non-partisan sources of the period. Nineteenth century Spanish historian Jose M. del Castillo, in his 1897 writing "El Katipunan" or "El Filibusterismo en Filipinas," describes the first national elections in the Philippines from which Bonifacio emerged as the President, and Plata, Jacinto, del Rosario, Pantas and Pacheco as cabinet officials. This is corroborated by the February 8, 1897 issue of the international publication "La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana" in its article about the Philippine revolution and which featured an engraved portrait of “Andres Bonifacio, Titulado ‘Presidente’ de la Republica Tagala,”**** clad in a dark suit and white tie.

    Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa" (Love of Motherland)

    Bonifacio Day for 2008 is the 145th birth anniversary of this fervent, plebeian, nationalist hero who might arguably have not been very effective in the battlefield, but possessed the organizational genius that paved the way for the revolutionary struggle for independence by the Malay race of the Philippine Islands. The depth of Gat Andres Bonifacio's ardent love for his country and people can be gleaned from his famous poem "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa" (Love for Motherland), which has been popularized as a song in the modern times.

    The poem is a poignant call for nationalism that emanates from within the people and not from anyone or anywhere else. In it, Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio laments the suffering of his people under Spanish colonial misrule and as well, the seeming loss of pride in their race. A patriotic song, it views love for country as perhaps the noblest and purest love there is. "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa" was first disseminated during the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule in the 1890s, appearing in the first and only issue of the Katipunan publication, Kalayaan. It was adapted to music during the Martial Law years.

    (ni Andres Bonifacio y de Castro)

    Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya
    sa pagkadalisay at magkadakila
    Gaya ng pag-ibig sa sariling lupa?
    Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala.

    Pagpupuring lubos ang palaging hangad
    Sa bayan ng taong may dangal na ingat,
    Umawit, tumula, kumata't at sumulat,
    Kalakhan din niya'y isinisiwalat.

    Walang mahalagang hindi inihandog
    Ng may pusong mahal sa Bayang nagkupkop,
    dugo, yaman, dunong, katiisa't pagod,
    Buhay ma'y abuting magkalagut-lagot.

    Bakit? Alin ito na sakdal ng laki,
    Na hinahandugan ng busong pagkasi,
    Na sa lalong mahal nakapangyayari,
    At ginugulan ng buhay na iwi?

    Ay! Ito'y ang iang bayang tinubuan:
    Siya'y iona't tangi sa kinamulatan
    Ng kawili-wiling liwanang ng araw
    Na nagbigay-init sa buong katawan.

    Kalakip din nito'y pag-ibig sa Bayan,
    Ang lahat ng lalong sa gunita'y mahal,
    Mula sa masaya'y gasong kasanggulan
    Hanggang sa katawa'y mapasa-libingan.

    Sa aba ng abang mawalay sa bayan!
    Gunita ma'y laging sakbibi ng lumbay,
    Walang alaala't inaasa-asam
    Kundi ang makita'y lupang tinubuan.

    Pati ng magdusa'y sampung kamatayan
    Wari ay masarap kung dahil sa bayan
    At lalong mahirap. Oh, himalang bagay!
    Lalong pag-irog pa ang sa kanya'y alay.

    Kung ang bayang ito'y masasa-panganib
    At siya ay dapat na ipagtangkilik,
    Ang anak, asawa, magulang, kapatid;
    Isang tawag niya'y tatalidang pilit.

    Hayo na nga, hayo, kayong nagabuhay
    Sa pag-asang lubos ng kaginhawahan
    At walang tinamo kundi kapaitan,
    Hayo na't ibangon ang naabang bayan!

    Kayong nalagasan ng bunga't bulaklak
    Ng kaho'y ng buhay na nilanta't sukat,
    Ng bala-balaki't makapal na hirap,
    muling manariaw't sa baya'y lumiyag.

    Ipahandug-handog ang busong pag-ibig
    At hanggang may dugo'y ubusing itigis;
    kung sa pagtatanggol, buhay ay mapatid,
    Ito'y kapalaran at tunay na langit!


    *According to the NCCA,

    No law, executive order or proclamation has been enacted or issued officially proclaiming any Filipino historical figure as a national hero... Aside from Rizal, the only other hero given an implied recognition as a national hero is Andres Bonifacio whose day of birth on November 30 has been made a national holiday.

    **Estimates vary from 30.000 to 400,000
    ***Recent records have established the true date to be August 24, 1896
    ****Bonifacio referred to the whole of the Philippine Islands as Katagalugan or Tagala in his writings.



    Andres Bonifacio: “Titulado Presidente De La Republica Tagala”. http://www.geocities.com/umalahokanstribe/EXHIBIT.html.

    Constantino, Renato. Veneration without Understanding. Third National Rizal Lecture, December 30, 1969. 13 January 2008. PinoyPress Site. http://www.pinoypress.net/2008/01/13/jose-rizal-veneration-without-understanding/7/.

    Guerrero, Milagros, Emmanuel Encarnacion, and Ramon Villegas. Andres Bonifacio and the 1896 Revolution. In Sulyap Kultura. National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 1996. NCCA Site. 16 June 2003. http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about-culture-and-arts/articles-on-c-n-a/article.php?i=5&subcat=13.

    Medina, Isagani. Heroes of the Philippines Revolution. In The Great Lives Series, Andres Bonifacio, Tahanan Books for Young Readers, Bookmark, 1992. Bakbakan Site. http://www.bakbakan.org/heroes.html.

    Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa. Philippine Revolution Web Center Site. http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/kultura/awit.pl?title=pag-ibig%20sa%20tinubuang%20lupa.

    Revolución filipina (1896-1898). Museo Oriental de Valladolid Site. http://www.museo-oriental.es/ver_didactica.asp?clave=138&loc=0.

    *Selection and Proclamation of National Heroes and Laws Honoring Filipino Historical Figures. *From the Reference and Research Bureau Legislative Research Service, House of Congress. NCCA Site. http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about-culture-and-arts/culture-profile/culture-profile-nationalhero.php.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Psychic Predictions on Estrada and Arroyo, the US, Obama & the world

Warning: Only for those who take psychic "predictions" not to heart.

The decade was the mid-1980s when I watched the documentary on Nostradamus' predictions, the much acclaimed The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Much of its contents had already slipped my mind (until I recently decided to revisit the movie via YouTube) but based from the presentation, I remember telling myself then that the French seer has a near-prophetic accuracy at foretelling the future, and that he has some rather dire predictions in store for the modern humans. I wasn't inclined, however, to buy his predictions hook, line and sinker. While I was try to keep an open mind as a matter of "scientific thinking" policy, I'm not the gullible type because I always seek valid evidence before getting myself to believe anything.

One of Nostradamus astounding predictions shown in the film is the supposed devastation of the world being brought about by a nuclear war instigated by a Muslim leader from the "East." As show in the film, the man, clad in an apparently Muslim garb with blue turban, will launch a nuclear weapon targeting the United States of America. Keep in mind that the year this was shown was the 1980s and that at the time, the "enemy" of the US was no other than the communist superpower Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Back then, any Muslim country being able to stand up to the US was unthinkable. Moreover, the Cold War had every country and everyone fearing that the end of the world would come via a nuclear missile exchange between the two superpowers.

As history would later unfold, the improbable happened when the once indivisible USSR and its communist bloc began disintegrating, beginning in the late 1980s. Was this historical development a proof of the accuracy of Nostradamus' predictions?

Predictions of an "Apo"

Amidst numerous internet sites insinuating, if not actually naming Democratic standard bearer Barack Obama as the next "anti-Christ" mentioned in Nostradamus quatrains, I ventured to seek a more "enlightened" interpretation of the Nostradamus predictions that potentially relates to Obama and the future of the world. I then set out to "consult" with a low-profile psychic I've heard about for years. I've been aware of his political predictions on the Philippine scene--which I constantly question in my mind but most of which have so far proved to be true.

Ever since the Edsa 2 coup that deposed the constitutionally elected Joseph Estrada and catapulted the power grabbing Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the presidency, I must admit I have been hoping for some news or "predictions" that would rectify this grave political sin against the Filipino people. Apo, however, would consistently predict that the fake "President" Arroyo would continue her hold on power--despite the pro-Estrada Edsa 3 failed revolution, numerous coup rumors and attempts, and electoral exercises, particularly the 2004 elections (which official results declaring Arroyo's win over opposition bet Fernando Poe Jr. proved to have been rigged by a conspiracy among Arroyo, certain Comelec and military officials, administrations senators and congressmen, and perhaps even the NAMFREL "watchdog").

Obama victory

Apo has very interesting things to say on both the Philippine and American political scenes, and the world in general. What will happen in America in the next months or years, it seems, will gravely impact on world developments. Well, the United States being the sole remaining superpower, it's hardly surprising that developments in the US influence events in other parts of the globe.

The Democratic ticket led by Barack Obama will most likely win the November elections, says Apo. The final vote tally will yield an approximately 33 percent lead over the Republican tandem of McCain and Palin. Unfortunately, there's a second, unpalatable part of this prediction. Barack Obama's presidency will be marked by pronounced materialism. Contrary to Obama's apparent idealism, his latent materialist agenda will surface once he takes over the administration of the USA.

There's much more. The low-key psychic says that Obama's win will signal the beginning of the world era of much difficulty and chaos. The global recession obtaining at the moment will not be resolved by the new administration, and instead, will deteriorate into a world crisis. Also, Obama will supposedly befriend, or be befriended by, a political figure of a Muslim state--an association that would somehow adversely impact on President Obama's foreign affairs and domestic policies. Apo says that Nostradamus' dire predictions for the US and the world could likely come to fruition under the Obama presidency (He did not elaborate so I'm not sure what particular Nostradamus quatrain he refers to, but I'm wondering whether he meant the scenario of that Middle Eastern man with blue turban bringing terror to the West as depicted in The Man Who Saw Tomorrow movie).

Assassination attempts on Arroyo & Estrada

Apo also predicts that deposed and defamed ex-President Joseph Estrada will run again for the Philippine presidency. Based on current developments when the opposition appears disunited, and on past statements of Estrada indicating that he'll run himself if the opposition will not field a unified candidate, this prediction does not seem far-fetch. The psychic also says the former President will win--something not really surprising, considering how he continues to be mobbed wherever he goes and how various surveys show how the Filipinos view him as innocent of the Plunder charges for which he was convicted.

The startling part of Apo's Estrada prediction is that the defamed Philippine President will be assassinated by a group who cannot accept his comeback in Philippine politics. Such a scenario would not come, however, before Gloria Arroyo herself, the incumbent who grabbed power from Estrada, and who is widely believed to have cheated opposition standard bearer FPJ during the 2004 elections, becomes subject to an assassination plot after she steps down in 2010.

Apo has more to say, like the Philippines doing an Atlantis (translation: will sink deep into the ocean bottom) if the Filipinos don't reform as a nation--whatever he means by that. His other predictions are still far fetched in time, so for the moment, my focus is on his short-to-medium term predictions. Are Apo's "predictions" accurate, just silly figments of imagination, or simply hoax material?

Frankly, I find Apo's predictions very bleak and rather belonging to the doomsdayers' stuff. I've been tempted to dismiss them as crazy stuff had I not reminded myself that this same Apo told me some six months earlier that Obama would prevail over Hillary Clinton in the primaries(much to my violent chagrin because I was hoping for a Hillary-Obama Democratic ticket). Ever the rational yet open-minded fellow that I am, I think I'm going to wait and see.



The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Prod. Paul Drane, et al., & Dir. Robert Guenette. Warner Bros, January 1981. http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=620FEB1849943E73&playnext=1.

Postscript 1:
(5 November 2008)

The US elections are a done deal. Obama wins. Now brace yourself for the determining figures: Obama's 349 vs. McCain's 163 electoral votes, out of a total of 512. Next, do your math. Final tally reveals that Obama got 68.16%, over McCain's 31.86%. In approximate terms, the resulting difference is one-third, or in exact figures, 36.3% electoral vote lead.

Are you getting the shudders now? Apo predicted about one-third Obama lead, which I wrote as "approximately 33 percent lead over Mccain." Given that the Apo meant the figure as an approximation, I say this part of his predictions has been "proved" right: so accurate that if it is off, it's just by a only around 3.3%. I've been sort of hoping that the final figures would be far away from Apo's predictions because if that were the case, logic would dictate that the rest of his morbid foretelling would be wrong as well.

Unfortunately, that ain't the case. I'm starting to wonder whether former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton never really stood a chance against Sen. Barack during the primaries. Has Obama's victory been long written in the stars? I mean, long been fated, and inscribed on the Akashic records by Nostradamus?

Postscript 2:
(5 November 2008)

There's one "heavy" part of Apo's prediction that I opted not to include because it was so "negative" of a future America. I've decided to append this deleted portion in the aftermath of Obama's victory because it should look good contrasting with the future policies of the US President-elect who campaigned on a mantra of liberal, progressive change, Here it is:
"Under the Obama presidency, America will show its true color, evil color."

How Americans, or the US, can be so wicked as described in the prediction is beyond me. I'm thinking it may have something to do with what the Apo himself described as the materialist course Obama is supposed to lead his country into. The world knows America to be a bully and even actual colonizer in the past but for it to be termed "evil" sounds like an exaggeration.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Luck of Sarah Palin... and the Feminist Push in Patriarchal America

The selection of Sarah Palin as the running mate of Republican standard-bearer John McCain for the November 2008 presidential elections generated such a phenomenal reaction that it is credited for the surprising come-from-behind lead of McCain over Barack Obama in the various election surveys. How Palin spelled magic for a discredited party identified with a much discredited incumbent president is significantly explained by two broiling feminist issues that have come of age in patriarchal America. Just what are these? Well, within the context of a 250-or-so year-old nation never having known what it's like to have a woman president or VP, it's the Alaskan governor's gender, and the sexism that derailed the democratic nomination of the first viable female presidential hopeful.

Judging from what the media has published, Palin's candidacy took the American nation by storm. Right after McCain's announcement of his vice-presidential choice, the liberal pro-Obama media largely went on a frenzied attack of Palin. Even social networking sites were not spared: a columnist of MSNBC's Newsvine lamented the "absolutely hysterical reaction" of his "lefty" colleagues over the choice of Palin. Under normal circumstances, the selection of an obscure governor from a far-off state (a woman at that, perhaps some will say) as the running mate of an underdog Republican presidentiable would have only meted a shrug in the shoulders from commentaries and at worse, ignoring scorn from the largely liberal media. In spite of, or perhaps, because of the rather perplexing media outcry against the choice of Palin, public opinion switched to the side of the Republican tandem as the election surveys saw Obama slipping to trail McCain again.

Why the huge media pounce on a national political unknown? Could it have been that the media forgot that Gov. Palin is a virtual unknown? Or is the furor derived from the realization that the McCain camp has wisely capitalized on the intense but glossed-over disenchantment of women/pro-women voters over Hillary's loss? Does the media, seen to have favored Barack Obama over Hillary during the contentious Democratic nomination campaign, fear a women's backlash against their candidate of choice?

Historic first female and first black bids

What transpired during the last couple of months since the nomination campaign period began for the Republican and Democratic parties were far from ordinary. The final contenders during the Democratic primaries each presented a historic bid to be the party's standard bearer for the coming presidential elections--a (white) woman and a black man. That bid was of course won by Barack Obama, the first ever African-American man to become a presidential nominee in American history. Worth noting is that the historic democratic primaries race won by a black man has been one of the most colorful, contentious and divisive in recent US history. Amidst the pronounced support for Obama by a liberal press practically mesmerized by his mantra of change, often muted but persisting voices have charged how the Hillary campaign suffered under the bashing of sexism and misogyny.

Thus, Palin's candidacy came on the heels of the historically prominent bid of Hillary Clinton to become the first viable US female presidential candidate ever--all 250 or so years after the original 13 colonies broke away from British stranglehold to revolt and form the Union. The Republican Party is well aware of this, as Palin echoed Hillary's words during her acceptance speech. Palin bellowed how "Hillary made 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of American aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

Republicans capitalize on the patriarchy issue

The surprising choice of Palin as the running mate of the Republican standard bearer McCain reflects just how much the feminist voice has impacted on US politics. Palin's selection and the earlier Hillary spurn are a puzzling development in how the Republican and Democratic parties deal with the feminist issue of breaking the White House glass ceiling. The Democratic Party has long been seen in America as the party that champions the advancement of women's rights. Yet, with the results of the recent presidential nomination campaign, the party miserably failed to field history's first viable U.S. female presidential hopeful as its standard-beare--and not even as VP bet.

On the other, the Republican Party is supposedly notorious for embracing the likes of Anna Coultier who prefers stripping the female sex of just about every human right possible. If the anti-feminist image of the Republican Party were true, what then explains the choice of Palin as McCain's running-mate? Perhaps the best explanation for the Palin pick is that the edgy, if not defensive, administration party--which suffers from the malaise brought about by George W. Bush's botched presidency--sensed that Hillary's failed bid fanned the smoldering clamor for a woman presidential or vice-presidential candidate among female voters.

The "18 million cracks" refers to the number of votes Hillary obtained during the primaries--seen to be largely disaffected by Obama's nomination victory, and his subsequent act of spurning Hillary as his running mate despite suggestions from Hillary's supporters and even feelers from the Clintons themselves. These are the Democratic votes the Republican seems to want to win over, among others. After it became evident that Palin has carried McCain's campaign towards public favor, Palin in an interview made a remark that apparently calls the attention of pro-female voters to the blunder of spurning Hillary. "I think he's regretting not picking her now," Palin said of Obama's VP choice. In choosing a woman--a fiery Palin--as his running mate, McCain perhaps wisely thought of how party loyalty would not probably matter to Democratic voters so long as the 2008 elections produce the first ever woman candidate to shatter the American VP glass ceiling.

No turning back to male monopoly of power

Very recently, the issue of unsound economic policies of the Republican Party that came following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the crisis threatening AIG insurance seems to be overtaking Palin's phenomenal boost to McCain's campaign. The recent September Gallup polls results show Obama regaining a slim edge over McCain, as the Republican team tries hard to disassociate themselves from the Bush administration. At any rate, even if the McCain-Palin ticket does not actually win come November, so long as the final tally comes anywhere a close call, American society will never be the same again. More specifically, it will never be as patriarchal again. There's simply no turning back the gains obtained from the feminist push Hillary and Palin made during this electoral period. Of course, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton, with feminist author Gloria Steinem noting that the only thing the former shares with the latter is the female gender. To those frustrated by generations after generations of male monopoly on power, though, any woman U.S. Vice-President would still carry the elusive message that the female can win the White House.

It is Sarah Palin's luck that half of the Democratic Party opted not to allow Hillary to break the "highest, hardest ceiling of them all" and that Obama subsequently spurned Hillary as his VP running mate. As well, it is Palin's good fortune that John McCain is either politically cunning or progressive enough to heed the clamor for a woman leader of America. In case the nearly impossible happens and the Republican Party wins the 2008 elections, thanks mostly to the Palin fever, history will credit Hillary Clinton for being the thwarted but first viable female presidential candidate who paved the way for the first successful female vice presidential nominee of America.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Destitute mother's parricide & suicide: Poverty & despondency under bogus President Arroyo

Manila - A jobless Filipino mother killed her three children Tuesday by forcing them to drink liquid toilet cleaner before taking her own life, police said. Police said poverty apparently drove Janeth Ponce, 32, to kill her children, ages 4, 3 and 2, in their house in Laguna province south of Manila.

-The Earth Times, Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:45:06 GMT

I've lived through all four decades, including during the time of Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship, but suicides due to poverty were little known of until the controversial presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Only in November 2007, 11-year-old Mariannet Amper hanged herself in their shanty in desperation over her family's abject poverty. These two cases hugged the headlines because juveniles are involved, but suicides that included only adult Filipinos have been reported--sporadically but occurring more often nonetheless.

To the best of my memory, the more than rare frequency of poverty-driven suicides began being reported only after the EDSA 2 coup d etat that deposed the constitutionally elected President Joseph Estrada to install the elite-backed Arroyo in 2001. Survey studies after survey researches--both local and international--have shown Arroyo's presidency as most inimical to the Filipinos. Her administration has also registered the highest levels of overall hunger, or "Total Hunger," in nearly a decade since the SWS surveys on hunger began. She is also viewed as the most unpopular and "Most Corrupt" president in the history of the Southeast Asian country since the time of Marcos based on the poll researches of both the SWS and Pulse Asia survey institutions.

Then Vice-President Arroyo was able to seize the presidency through the so-called "EDSA 2 Revolution," backed by the Catholic Church, business elites, military elements and political oppositionists to Estrada, led by herself and her husband. Based on the admission of Arroyo's husband to respected Filipino writer Nick Joaquin, the Arroyos bought and distributed "millions" of print material and used mass texting to assemble "people power" in the streets of EDSA as part of what is now viewed as a planned conspiracy to grab power,

These suicides ghastly showcase the sufferings of the Filipino masses gone to desperation level. The "bogus" administration of Arroyo (dubbed so due to her 2001 power grab and the 2004 electoral fraud scandal) is morally accountable for the unprecedented hunger and poverty in the country. The funds of the Philippine treasury and the energies of her contested administration have practically all been directed towards keeping her illegitimate rule instead of improving the conditions and opportunities of the people, particularly the marginalized lot. She has proved to be an innately self-serving "President" who has skillfully exercised "patronage politics" oiled by dispensing pork barrel and junket favors to equally crocodilian politicians like her.

Perhaps as much to be blamed for the obtaining despondency among the half a million households, whose members at times are forced to do without a single meal in a day, is the gullible mob that either unsuspectingly or stupidly came to support EDSA 2. Thinking that it was a "spontaneous" act founded on moral calling, they helped depose President Estrada, who had been fierily branded as corrupt by the propaganda machinery of a power hungry Arroyo and party. As it turned out--to the detriment of the nation--Arroyo, who ironically laid claim to the presidency via a "revolution" for good governance, would be the only Philippine leader to ever receive negative satisfaction ratings, and even bested Marcos for the ignominious title of "Most Corrupt President in Philippine History." As the "EDSA 2 gullibles" have realized too late, Arroyo was a disguised malevolent politician who conned them all.

To say "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa," is the least the more patriotic of the EDSA 2 conspirators and gullibles can do. But what good would a thousand sorry's do to the grieving, destitute families of Janeth and Mariannet and other poverty-related dead-by-suicide victims of Arroyo's administration?



Bowring, Philip. "Filipino Democracy Needs Stronger Institutions." International Herald Tribune. 22 Jan. 2001. http://www.iht.com/articles/2001/01/22/edbow.t_3.php

"Poverty-stricken mother kills three children, self in Philippines." The Earth Times. 09 September 2008. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/230527,poverty-stricken-mother-kills-three-children-self-in-philippines.html

Pulse Asia. Additional Findings on Corruption-Related Issues: Most Corrupt President in Philippine History. October 2007. http://pulseasia.com.ph/resources/photos/table2_corruption_0710.gif

Pulse Asia. Pulse Asia's July 2008 Nationwide Survey on Coping with Double Digit Inflation Rates. July 2008. http://www.pulseasia.com.ph/pulseasia/story.asp?ID=656

Social Weather Stations. Second Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: PGMA's net rating falls to record-low -38. 18 July 2008. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr080718.htm

Tordesillas, Ellen. "Credit should go to Mike Arroyo". Malaya. 16 Jan. 2002. http://malaya.com.ph/jan16/edtorde.htm

Photo Credit:


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Exposé: Philippine commandos reveal ER tampering & switching to fabricate Arroyo's 2004 victory

By Ellen Tordesillas, reprinted with permission from the author and the Vera Files.

(For a related story by Jesusa Bernardo, see: Arroyo, "Hello Garci" and the Anniversary of Her Bogus Presidency).

WHEN Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [delivered] her eighth State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa session hall [last July 28, 2008], she [stood] close to where, three years ago, police commandos say they replaced genuine election returns (ERs) with fake ones in ballot boxes that were being readied for a recount of the 2004 presidential election.

The ER switching at the Batasan had been talked about and reported on since 2005, when Arroyo apologized to the nation for talking to an election official while the votes were being counted, in what has since been known as the "Hello, Garci" scandal.

Recently, some of those who took part in that clandestine operation have sought legal refuge, executing affidavits and taped testimonies of their involvement. Others told friends in confidence, while a few boasted about it in drinking sessions.

They said they switched the ERs of several provinces on three occasions to reconcile these with the figures in the certificates of canvass (COCs) and statements of votes (SOVs) that were tampered with in the 2004 elections.

The stories told by some of the participants and their confidants in the Batasan operation constitute what could be grounds for another impeachment case against Arroyo.

They revive allegations that not only did the President cheat in the 2004 elections, but also tried to cover her tracks by switching the ERs that would have been scrutinized in 2005. At that time, the presidential electoral protest filed by Arroyo's opponent, Fernando Poe Jr., was still pending. Poe died of a heart attack in December 2004, but his widow, Susan Roces, pursued the protest.

Orders came from Ebdane and Franco

Among those who took part in the Batasan operation were members of the Special Action Force (SAF), an elite combat unit of the Philippine National Police

Some of them said they got their orders from Gen. Marcelino Franco, then commanding officer of the SAF. Both Franco and the then chief of the SAF Intelligence and Investigation Division, Supt. Rafael Santiago, were present at a briefing on the operation, SAF sources said.

The SAF sources refused to be named for fear of their safety and those of their families.

"Basta ang initial info po sa amin ay legal operation po ito pero hindi pa namin alam ang nature ng operation (The initial info we got was that it was a legal operation, but we didn't know the nature of the operation)," a SAF commando said. Franco, in turn, got his orders from the former PNP chief, Brig Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., a trusted adviser of Arroyo, SAF sources said.

Ebdane had denied the allegations in previous reports. VERA Files tried getting his side of the story but has not received a reply.

Franco, who has since retired from the PNP and is assistant vice president of Security Bank, also declined to comment on his role in the ER switching operation. Santiago, now senior superintendent and head of the Northern Police District's Intelligence and Investigation Division, ignored requests for an interview.

How the switching happened

SAF sources said the first ER switching operation took place around midnight of Jan. 23, 2005, a Sunday.

Here's what happened based on interviews, taped testimonies, and documents obtained by VERA Files.

A van and three other vehicles arrived at the South Wing entrance of the Batasan complex. Two dozen people alighted from the vehicles, five of them non-commissioned officers, the rest civilians. Santiago was the team leader.

At that time, a makeshift storage room had been erected at the South Wing lobby for ballot boxes containing the returns of the 2004 elections. The boxes had been brought there for the national canvassing.

The go signal came from SAF officers, among them Inspectors Rafael Lero and Samson Kimayong. While some stood guard, others unloaded from the van some 20 to 30 cigarette cartons containing documents.

As a lock picker opened the ballot boxes, SAF commandos said, the others took out the contents of the ballot boxes and replaced them with the documents they brought with them.

After three hours, they packed up, loaded what they took from the ballot boxes into their vehicles and proceeded to the residence of election lawyer Roque Bello in Brookside Hills, Cainta, Rizal.

The operation was repeated six days later on Jan. 29 and on the first weekend of February.

Chief Inspector Ferdinand Ortega, chief of the SAF contingent assigned at the Batasan, was present in all three operations.

Today, Lero and Kimayong have been promoted to senior inspectors and are also assigned at the NPD.

Ortega became commandant of the SAF Training School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, right after the Batasan operation. Now a superintendent, he heads the SAF operations office in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.

Ortega and Lero likewise ignored VERA Files' requests for an interview. Contacted by phone, Kimayong denied any knowledge of the 2005 operation.

Returns fabricated by election lawyer Bello

What the SAF brought to the Batasan South Wing were fake election returns allegedly fabricated under the supervision of Bello. They stuffed these into the ballot boxes after they took out the genuine election returns, which they took to Bello's place.

Contacted for his side, Bello said he had already denied involvement in the operation way back in March 2006 when pictures of the alleged manufacturing of ERs in his house appeared in Malaya and Newsbreak. "It's not true," he reiterated his denial.

Two weeks weeks before the Batasan ER switching operation, Poe's widow, Susan Roces, had petitioned the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to replace her husband in the electoral protest he had initiated.

Poe's running mate, Loren Legarda, had filed a similar protest, questioning the proclamation of her rival Noli de Castro and citing irregularities in the canvassing of votes in a number of provinces, many of them in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Both Arroyo and De Castro had been proclaimed president and vice president after an administration-dominated Congress acting as National Board of Canvassers declared Arroyo the winner with 12,905,808 votes against closest rival Poe who got 11,782,232 votes. De Castro garnered 15,100,431 votes against Legarda's 14,218,709.

The minority members of the Joint Committee of Congress did not sign the NBC's final report and instead issued "The True Report," which was their own version of the results of the 2004 elections that showed Poe winning over Arroyo by 511,981 votes and Legarda over De Castro by 702,311 votes.

Citing several cases of manufactured election returns, tampered statement of votes and certificates of votes, the minority challenged the joint committee and Congress "to show that the numbers on those questioned certificates of canvass match their corresponding statements of votes and election returns."

"The truth is in those election returns," the minority said.

ERs are documents prepared by boards of election inspectors at the precinct level.

For president and vice president, the ERs are sent to the provincial and city boards of canvassers who then prepare certificates of canvass (COC) supported by statements of votes (SOV). The votes garnered by the candidates in the ER, SOV and COC are supposed to match.

'Hello, Garci'

This, in fact, seemed to be a concern uppermost in Arroyo's mind shortly after the 2004 elections. A portion of the "Hello, Garci" tapes records her voicing her worry to then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Following are excerpts from a late evening conversation between Arroyo and Garcillano on June 2, 2004:

GMA: Hello. Dun sa Lanao del Sur tsaka sa Basilan, di raw nagma-match ang SOV sa COC?

Garcillano: Hindi nagma-match? May posibilidad na hindi mag-match kung hindi nila sinunod 'yung individual SOV ng mga munisipyo...

GMA: So, nagma-match?

Garcillano: Oho. Sa Basilan, alam nyo naman ang mga military dun eh, hindi masyadong marunong kasi silang gumawa eh. Katulad ho dun sa Sulu sina General Habacon.

During the congressional canvassing, minority members called the NBC's attention to the disparity in figures reflected in the COCs, which was the basis of the proclamation, and in their copies of SOVs and ERs.

The then presiding officers, Sen. Francis Pangilinan and then Rep. Raul Gonzalez, now justice secretary, brushed aside the minority's concern, and merely responded by saying, "Noted."

Rasalan: Money to tamper returns came from Arroyo

In July 2006, Artemio Rasalan, a self-confessed election operator, executed an affidavit and videotaped confession of his role in what he described as a "grand clandestine operation to head off a looming crisis."

This crisis was expected to erupt once the PET discovered the tampered ERs and the unmatching SOVs and COCs.

Rasalan said Bello had asked him sometime in July 2004 to undertake an operation that would "produce at least 10,000 new election returns duly accompanied by the appropriate Comelec envelopes: officially numbered envelope seals and the official Comelec inks for thumb marking."

He identified nine provinces the ERs of which had to be replaced. These are Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani in Mindanao and Isabela in Luzon.

Rasalan quoted the election lawyer as saying that it was Ebdane who engaged Bello's services on orders of Arroyo. Two months later, Rasalan said, Roque told him he was coordinating closely with Garcillano.

"He (Roque) said the money for this special operation will be provided by PGMA [Arroyo's initials]. As a matter of fact, a few days thereafter, I was told by Attorney Bello that Commissioner Garcillano met with PGMA at her La Vista home to receive the money," Rasalan said.

They started making the fake ERs in mid-October 2004, Rasalan stated. It took them two months to finish the work. He then delivered the 10,000 fabricated ERs to Bello's home in Brookside Hills Subdivision, Cainta, Rizal for the printing of the correct original serial numbers.

With the 10,000 fake ERs ready, the last step was to put them inside the ballot boxes guarded by the SAF at the Batasan building so that when the PET started opening the ballot boxes, the figures there would match those in the tampered COCs and SOVs.

Special Action Force of the Philippines

IT WAS NO accident that it was the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police that penetrated the Batasan Pambansa and stuffed the ballot boxes with fake election returns to make it look like Gloria Arroyo won the 2004 elections.

Established in 1983 initially to help combat insurgency and later to "destroy enemy forces that undermine the nation's stability," the police commandos are trained as a rapid deployment force and to "noiselessly operate in the shadows."

In its 25-year history, the elite unit has not been impervious to the country's political upheavals. The SAF joined the February 1986 people power revolution that followed the defection of its founder, then Armed Forces vice chief of staff and Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police chief Fidel V. Ramos, and toppled President Ferdinand Marcos.

But in early 2005, some of the SAF's own members said they undermined democracy when the unit switched the election returns on orders of former PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

Ebdane knew fully well and harnessed the unit's commando skills. After all, he had served as SAF commander from August 1989 to February 1991.

It also helped that the SAF was one of the units securing the House.

Had no one talked, the operation that took place on Jan. 23 and 29 and the first weekend of February 2005 would have been SAF's secret.

Franco 'principled,' but 'pragmatic' too

His colleagues describe Chief Supt. Marcelino Franco, who approved the operation as SAF commander at the time, as a "very serious, principled and highly professional" officer. But they also said that as a leader, he can be "very pragmatic."

Franco would later be implicated in the alleged plan of the Marines and Army Scout Rangers in February 2006 to withdraw support from Arroyo.

In his affidavit, former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, then the commanding general of the Philippine Army, said that his two classmates in the Philippine Military Academy (Class '74)-Franco and Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, then commandant of the Philippine Marines-had asked him to join them in their plan to withdraw support from Arroyo.

Esperon said this happened in a late-night meeting on Feb. 23 at the residence of then AFP chief Generoso Senga. He said Franco confirmed that "most of the elements of SAF-PNP will sympathize with those who will march and withdraw support from PGMA."

Military officers accused of planning the February 2006 protest activity said Franco knew first-hand that Arroyo cheated in the elections. Unlike those who are detained and being tried in court martial for mutiny, no charges were ever filed against Franco.

SAF sources said prior to the Batasan ER switching operation, Franco met with Ebdane and Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. He then entrusted the task to Supt. Rafael Santiago, the commanding officer of SAF's Intelligence and Investigation Division.

Santiago, in turn, brought in young police officers, including Inspectors Rafael Lero and Samson Kimayong.

Santiago is said to be the quintessential intelligence agent. "Now you see him, now you don't," a police officer said.

Chief Inspector Ferdinand Ortega, who headed the SAF unit in the Batasan during the ER switching operation, appears to be well-liked in police circles. A colleague finds him "nakakatawang mayabang (amusing and a braggart)." He is affectionately called "Bungo" or skull, after the famous Baguio City police officer, Bobby Ortega, who was portrayed in two movies by the late actor Rudy Fernandez.

About 6,000 genuine election returns were replaced with manufactured returns in the January to February 2005 operations, a SAF source said.

A fourth operation was planned, but Chief Inspector Jimmy Laguyo, who by then had replaced Ortega at the SAF's unit at the Batasan, refused to cooperate, the source said. Franco had Laguyo transferred to Abra.

The fourth operation never materialized. The unit was kept preoccupied by a failed jailbreak at the SAF headquarters on March 14, 2005 in which suspected Abu Sayyaf members were killed. The Commission on Human Rights had ordered an investigation of the SAF shortly after the incident.

Reward for Batasan operators

The efforts of the SAF commandos who participated in the Batasan operation did not go unrewarded. The enlisted personnel were each given P10,000 one month after the operation.

"May natanggap kaming sobre na ibinigay sa amin na patago na sabi nila, 'Ito panggastos niyo. Ito 'yung reward natin sa operation natin sa Batasan (We were each secretly handed an envelope and told, 'This is for your expenses; this is our reward for the Batasan operation),'" one of them said.

He added, "Nung binuksan ko po 'yung envelope, naglalaman po ng P10,000. Hindi ko alam kung matuwa ako doon o matakot na gastusi 'yun kasi 'yun nga sa operation na 'yun (When I opened the envelope, it contained P10,000. I didn't know if I should be happy or be afraid to spend it because it was for that operation)."

Another enlisted policeman said they were summoned to the SAF office for the "good news." He said the higher-up who handed them the envelopes advised them, "Huwag na lang kayo maingay. Sa atin-atin lang ito (Don't talk about this. Let's keep this among ourselves)."

'Souvenirs' of election returns switching

The switching of the election returns at the Batasan was caught on video through a mobile phone camera. ABS-CBN had shown the video, but it went largely unnoticed.

But a SAF member who took part in the operation also has in his possession evidence-he calls it "souvenir"- of the operation: copies of the genuine election returns.

He said he removed five envelopes containing the returns from the van he was riding after the team left the Batasan compound in February 2005 and brought them home with him. Some of his colleagues did likewise.

The SAF member said he got curious and decided to inspect the contents of the boxes that had not been sealed with masking tape. "Yun 'yung election returns. Dahil po ako isang botante, alam ko po ang style ng election return (They were election returns. I'm a voter, so I know the style of an election return)," he said.

VERA Files was shown the envelopes containing the returns.

After the recordings of the wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and Garcillano on the cheating in the 2004 elections became public, the police commandos involved in the Batasan operation realized the value of the video and election returns in their hands.

Some of them said they all wanted to make public the evidence they had but feared this would endanger their lives and those of their families. They then thought of relocating abroad but they needed money to do that.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who was then protesting Noli de Castro's proclamation as vice president, said in an interview she met with Joel Pinawin, a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve Corps who acted as liaison for the SAF personnel. She was shown a video of ballot boxes being moved at the Batasan but said the video was rather dark.

"But they were selling it to me," she said.

Legarda does not remember the amount that was asked, but a source close to the SAF personnel said the group had hoped to raise P200 million, or P10 million each for the 20 people involved in the operation.

Said Legarda: "Where will I get the money? Kakatalo ko lang. Dinaya ako, malungkot, walang trabaho. Wala akong pera (I just lost. I was cheated, sad, jobless and penniless). I told them to do it for the country."

Election returns now with Comelec

The tampering and swapping of the election returns became evident when the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal hearing Legarda's election protest, opened the ballot boxes for Nalindong and Taraka towns in Lanao del Sur.

The copies of the returns that were given to the Commission on Elections, National Citizens Movement for Free Elections and the dominant and minority parties showed opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. and Legarda leading Arroyo and De Castro. But the returns in the ballot boxes retrieved from the Batasan showed the opposite.

Despite the discrepancies, the Supreme Court dismissed last January Legarda's petition, citing insufficient evidence of fraud.

Poe's suit against Arroyo before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) was dismissed on March 29, 2005. The tribunal said his widow, actress Susan Roces, could not replace him as petitioner because "she would not immediately and directly benefit from the outcome should it be determined that the declared president did not truly get the highest number of votes."

The returns from the 2004 elections, including the fabricated ones, are no longer at the House of Representatives. Last February, shortly after he became speaker of the House, Rep. Prospero Nograles ordered the ballot boxes containing the returns moved from the South Wing to the Commission on Elections. The makeshift room where they were once stored has been dismantled.

Last March, former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. called for an investigation of the 2005 switching of election returns at the Batasan.

***Note: All additional photos of Gloria Arroyo, Fernando Poe Jr., Noli de Castro, Loren Legarda, Susan Roces and Virgilio Garcillano have been added by Jesusa Bernardo. Additional ER tampering photos were directly taken from the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism website.


Recommended related articles:

The Truth behind the Philippine Presidency and the 2004 Elections

A homage to Samuel Ong, hero of the 'Hello Garci' expose



Vera Files. http://www.verafiles.org/.

Link to YouTube Video Testimony of Arsenio Rasalan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdsjtXv3tA8.

SPECIAL NOTE: When using the CiteMAT citation generator for this reprint article, you need to manually input/replace the author's name as "Ellen Tordesillas".


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