Tuesday, December 22, 2009

History & the Philippine-American War: A Colonial Hero, an Anti-Colonial Hero, & Plaza-Naming

THIS week, December 19 to be specific, is the 110th anniversary of the death of Henry Ware Lawton, an American general after whom a landmark plaza in Manila, Philippines was named--Plaza Lawton.
As a young girl, I didn't exactly remember the place or its precise spot in Manila but my parents seemed to frequently mention it. My papa, in particular, made more than occasional references to "Lawton" or "Plaza Lawton," either as a destination, landmark or jeepney (public transport) route.

During my college years, I gave the etymology of the plaza some thought but didn't exactly bother to do real research. Back then, I just presumed that "Lawton" must be another of the numerous vestiges of pathetic (what else could it be?) colonial heritage. Lawton must be some American official who served in the Philippines. Perhaps a governor-general, military officer, or commissioner of some entity during the era of United States occupation of its former Southeast Asian colony.

As it turned out, I was partly correct. Plaza Lawton was named after Henry Ware Lawton, an American military general who did serve in the Philippines--but not exactly during the colonial era. Maj. Gen. Lawton served as a valiant, celebrated, determined agent-officer of American imperialistic expansion during the subjugation proper--the official (translation: US military viewpoint) duration of the Philippine-American hostilities. He would not be part of the American colonial era when the colonized natives had already been "pacified," which came some three or ten years later--depending on whose side is talking.

It's interesting to note that the name "Geronimo" was destined to play an important part of his military record--of Lawton's fame and death. Lawton was to be the bane of the Apache American Indian tribe and its leader Geronimo during the Geronimo Campaign of 1886.*

More than a later, during yet another mission of subjugation (US translation: pacification)--this time thousands of miles of land and ocean waters away from American soil--he would face another Geronimo in the person of Filipino general (US translation: "insurgent" leader) Licerio Geronimo. 

Lawton's Military Exploits

Gen. Henry Ware Lawton is said to be one of the most celebrated American wartime heroes of his time. He was so respected and admired such that Fort Lawton in Washington and the city of Lawton in Oklahoma were named after him. He was "boy hero" of the American Civil War, earning the Medal of Honor for his leadership of a skirmish attack at Atlanta, Georgia.

Lawton is best remembered, however, for his pursuit of the near-mythical figure that was Geronimo and his American Indian band.  While Lawton was not actually able to capture Geronimo, his relentless search operations that included the use of Apache "scouts" (translation: Indian traitors) are credited for the Indian leader's eventual surrender to the US Army.

Promotions came easy for him after the 1886 Geronimo Campaign, rising to become brigadier general of volunteers during his stint in Cuba and later, as Major General. His military exploits covering four decades--the Civil War, American Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Philippine-American War--supposedly approached the level of fantastic such that his life has been a popular subject of contemporary journalism. While he is now faulted for certain flawed judgments during the war against the Spaniards and in Cuba, his trademark traits--dogged determination and fearlessness came in handy for the US missions.

Filipino-American War

The Philippine-American War was set in the context of the Filipino revolutionary energies being part-spent during the Revolution against Spanish colonial rule and of the voracious, newfound US appetite for imperial possessions in the Pacific (apart from Puerto Rico). The US had prevailed in the Spanish-American War, resulting to the December 1898 Treaty of Paris that, among other things, "ceded" the Philippines to the US for $20 million.

For a long time, the US military refused to admit to the fact of the Philippine-American War, referring to it merely as "insurrection." Apparently, the denial was designed to belittle the claims of groups in America which were opposed to the annexation of the Philippines.

At that time, the American public was becoming divided over the morality and wisdom of President William McKinley’s policy of colonization. The Anti-Imperialist League was formed and business baron Andrew Carnegie even offered $20 million to buy back the independence of the Filipinos, but was promptly rejected.

Under a Republican administration, the emerging international power that was the US wanted its people to believe that the acquisition of the Southeast Asian archipelago was not by deliberate design but merely an accidental consequence of the Paris accord. To rationalize his imperialistic plans for the islands, McKinley even went to the extent of claiming he heard the “voice of God” in a dream or something, leading to his decision that there was "nothing left for us to do but to take them all, to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them."

The denial apparently also arose from the need of the US military to be in accord with the acquisition-via-Spanish-sale-of-the-Southeast-Asian-archipelago official policy for the Philippines. The Fil-Am War denial precludes a rather important point behind the outcome of the Spanish-American War--that the Filipino revolutionaries actually helped the US defeat Spain. This is a fact acknowledged no less by Senator William Jennings Bryan:

There can be no doubt that we accepted and utilized the services of the Filipinos [in the war against Spain], and that when we did so we had full knowledge that they were fighting for their own independence, and I submit that history furnishes no example of turpitude baser than ours if we now substitute our yoke for the Spanish yoke.

Lawton in the Philippines

Gen. Lawton was among the Civil War and American Indian war veterans assigned to secure US expansionist interest in the Philippines. He headed the 3,850-strong First Division consisting of two maneuver brigades, each of which was further composed of four or so battalions. He was responsible for the capture of the Filipino stronghold in Santa Cruz (April 9-10, 1899); Paete (April 12, 1899); and Zapote (June 13, 1899) in the war's second largest battle.

Tactics-wise, he was credited with the use and development of the indigenous Philippine scouts (translation: Filipino "Macabebe," etc. traitors) to contain the Filipino revolutionaries--who were fighting guerilla warfare in their own territory. The use of indigenous foot soldier scouts against their fellow natives who were resisting American domination is a crucial lesson learned by Lawton during the Indian Wars.

Unfortunately for Lawton, however, he was destined to become the most important American casualty of that turn-of-the-century war of colonial subjugation. On the morning of December 19, 1899, the American general led an assault termed the Battle of San Mateo in Montalban (now Rizal Province). The assault aimed to permanently cut the communication lines of the Filipino forces in the southern and northern portions of Luzon island.

The American general was boldly pacing the firing line on the San Mateo River’s west bank almost unmindful of the warnings given him by his soldiers when a bullet of a sharpshooting Filipino revolutionary pierced through his chest. Lawton died instantly. The US military's biggest single loss in the war.

Gen. Geronimo

Responsible for his death was the guerilla troop Tiradores de la Muerte (Marksmen of Death), which was ironically led by another "Geronimo"--Gen. Licerio Geronimo. The exact spot of the conflict, or at least part of it, is now within the jurisdiction of Quezon City in Metro Manila. A marker commemorating the Battle of San Mateo, which can be found at Brgy. Bagong Silangan, when translated into English reads:

On this spot on the morning of December 19, 1899 occurred a historic battle during the Filipino-American War between the forces of Licerio Geronimo, Division General of the Revolutionary Army of Rizal together with his band of marksmen called Tiradores de la Muerte and American forces led by Commanding General Henry W. Lawton that consisted of battalions from the 29th Infantry, 27th Infantry, and a cavalry and foot squadron from the 11th Cavalry. Killed during this battle faced by the forces of General Geronimo was General Lawton, one of the highest ranking American military officials during the Filipino-American War.

Who was the Filipino "Geronimo"? Gen. Geronimo was among the most valiant Filipino generals in the Philippine-American War. According to a National Historical Institute article:

Geronimo joined the Katipunan when [Andres] Bonifacio established a chapter in Montalban. When revolution [against Spain] broke out in 1896, Geronimo went to Balintawak on request of Bonifacio. On August 30 that same year, he was with the group that attacked San Juan del Monte...

“General Cerio” as he was fondly called became popular among the revolutionists because of his skills in combat. He triumphantly defended his post from the Spaniards and augmented ammunitions and supplies of the revolutionists by ambushing Spanish carts...

When the Philippine-American War broke out, Geronimo defended Marikina. He helped build trenches and reorganized the Filipino troops in San Juan and Mandaluyong. Antonio Luna appointed him commanding general of the third military zone with operations in Manila and Rizal...

Geronimo was a great disturbance to the Americans for his damaging guerrilla tactics against them. In July 1900, General Trias named him jefe superior [Chief Commader] of the joint forces of the second and third zones of Manila. In August, he took command of the district of Morong.

Gen. Geronimo continued to fight the American imperialists for over a year after his troops killed the highest-ranking American casualty of the war. Subsequently, however, he caved in to the pressures wrought by America military might and a double-faced "pacification campaign" (translation: at times, ruthless scorched-earth tactics were used). On March 29, 2001, the valiant Gen. Geronimo surrendered to the colonizers. He even became a Philippine Constabulary inspector and, later, officer.

US Colonial Propaganda 

Within two years, however, the noted Filipino veteran of the Revolution and the Philippine-American War would be dismissed from the colonial-era Philippine Constabulary, supposedly on grounds of gambling. At this point, a student of history may wonder whether gambling was indeed the only reason behind Geronimo's dismissal. After all, his guerilla troop was responsible for the killing of heroic-to-the-Americans-but-fallen-colonizing-agent-to-the-Filipinos Gen. Lawton.

By any measure, Geronimo's association with the death of an American general presented an embarrassment for a (emerging) world power claiming that the inhabitants of its colonial possession were not waging, or in no position to wage, any war. Moreover, Gen. Geronimo demolished no less an illustrious American military hero whose persona the colonial government would forcibly inculcate into the Filipino psyche by naming an important Manila plaza after him, Plaza Lawton.

Lawton's Views of the Philippine-American War

Gen. Lawton, in his stint during the Phil-Am War and in his death while in action, was to be surrounded with, or involved in, propaganda issues relating to the military conflict in the Philippines. For one, in a conversation with a reporter-friend over his non-promotion to the rank of Regular Army officer, he expressed his apprehensions over the possible consequence of his public pronouncement of the need for 100,000 US troops in the Philippines.

Another would be a controversial letter--published only after his death--in which he seemed to downgrade Filipino resistance and military capability.  In the letter he wrote before his death to former ambassador to Siam (Thailand) John Barrett, Lawton supposedly stated that “If I am shot by a Filipino bullet, it might as well come from one of my own men, because I know from observation, confirmed by captured prisoners, that the continuance of fighting is chiefly due to reports that are sent out from America.”

Lawton's assessment of the need for such a large number of troops to neutralize the conflict in the new "acquisition," by itself, provided evidence that America was at war, particularly given that the Philippines is much smaller compared to the US. The reference to the military establishment/Washington possibly being displeased by such a public statement pointed to a propaganda policy of keeping the war realities from reaching the American people, but which he might have violated.

As for the letter to the ambassador, it was apparently crafted in response to the Anti-Imperialist League's criticisms of the annexation of the Philippines. It certainly appeared incongruent with his publicly stated view that the containment of Filipino resistance needed 100,000 US troops.

Moreover the Barrett letter seemed to squarely conflict with the contents of a formal correspondence also attributed to him. In that other letter, Lawton was all praises for the resolve of the Filipino soldiers: 

Taking into account the disadvantages they have to fight against in terms of arms, equipment and military discipline, without artillery, short of ammunition, powder inferior, shells reloaded until they are defective, they are the bravest men I have ever seen...

His admiration for the under-equipped soldiers must surely not have been directed at the traitorous indigenous scouts that they were arming. Clearly, the Filipino soldiers earned Lawton's respect--and, apparently, the recognition that they were fighting a valiant war for freedom.

Phil-Am War as Historical Reality 

Credit: http://www.filipiniana.net
The United States combined tactics of pacification and social improvement with brutal military strikes. Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, and then in 1902 President Roosevelt officially declared an end to the conflict. However a Filipino-American War continued on until 1915. In years to come, Americans remained divided over the nation’s actions and imperial ambitions.

Military historian John M. Gates notes how the US forces became atrocious as they increasingly became frustrated in their missions. He writes that "The more frustrating the campaign became, the more frequently the Americans crossed the line separating the harsh reprisals sanctioned by General Order 100 from such crimes of war as torture and wanton destruction."

Clearly, why the US soldiers reached frustration level reflected the war intensity level that the Filipino patriots gave them in the turn-of-the-century conflict. Commenting on the casualty figures of the Philippine-American War (his count being actually very conservative compared to American author Gore Vidal's), Gates writes: "This war about which one hears so little was not a minor skirmish."

Plaza Lawton Place-Naming

Despite his having been killed by a Filipino bullet, however, the US colonial government was to have the temerity to name a plaza in the capital, Manila, after the fallen American general. Actually, "Plaza Lawton" was probably expected, given that imperialist periods always reflect the viewpoints of the dominant state.

During the early American era, colonial policy included an education (or miseducation?) policy of Americanizing the Filipino psyche. Under the so-called 1908 pensionado program, young Filipinos sent to the mother country for education became "sellers of American institutions and way of life" upon their return back home. Similarly, the introduced educational system in the Philippines taught the natives American presidents and figures, government system, etc.

More visible was the pattern of naming streets and places after American governor-generals, military officials, important American who served in the islands, etc. Thus, today's Roxas Blvd. in Metro Manila was formerly named after Commodore Dewey who demolished the Spanish naval forces during the Battle of Manila Bay; A.H. Lacson St. in Sampaloc, Manila used to be named after Gov.-Gen. William Forbes. Burnham Park in Baguio City was named after American architect Daniel Burnham. Taft Avenue in Manila has also retained the name taken after the country's first American civil governor, William Howard Taft (later became US president).

Plaza Lawton was not the only case of propaganda/Americanization type of place naming instituted by the colonial government. Streets built right after the Fil-Am War in Malate were named after US states that sent volunteer soldiers to fight the Filipino army (later renamed after the patriots who played key roles in the First Philippine Republic).

From Lawton to Katipunan founder Bonifacio

In the early 1900s, Plaza Lawton became an important part of the so-called Burnham Plan for the capital city. The plaza fronts the facade of the Manila Central Post Office, a neo-classical but beautiful structure that still stands today (rebuilt after World War II). While it appears lost in the present time, it simply looked so grand during the early part of the 20th century. The plaza itself, without today's numerous jeepneys, cars, and development clutters, was a pleasant sight to behold.

... to Plaza Geronimo?

Plaza Lawton in Manila has been renamed Liwasang Bonifacio in the 1970s in honor of the Father of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio. While I am a Bonifacio partisan, I believe it would have been more appropriate and historically colorful (translation: capitalize on the historical irony) to rename the place as Plaza Geronimo.

Would it not be more fitting and historically meaningful to rename the plaza christened after the highest ranking imperialist military leader killed during the Filipino-American war to the (sur)name of the Filipino general responsible for the wartime feat? If only the Philippine government was probably not so sensitive to what its former colonial master would feel, naming that part of Manila "Plaza Geronimo" would actually constitute a logical choice. 

Actually a street in Manila is already named after Gen. Geronimo--his birthplace in Brgy. Sampaloc.
However, from the viewpoint of Philippine memory, it simply sounds more symbolic to change Plaza Lawton to the name of the nemesis of the fallen American general. Such an ironic name change will highlight the great, valiant struggle that ill-equipped Philippine eagle soldiers put up with against the colonizing American bald eagle forces.

To put it bluntly but honestly, Lawton was Geronimo's prized Filipino-American War trophy. America's biggest loss was the Philippines’s biggest prey catch. No matter that the killing of Lawton ultimately proved to be more of a fleeting victory, a consolation prize amidst the eventual US subjugation of the whole islands. From Plaza Lawton to Plaza Geronimo--a symbolic, if ironic, historical, anti-colonial sweet revenge.

Plaza Geronimo?????

Then again, maybe Gen. Geronimo does not deserve that accolade. After all, he surrendered to the American forces some 15 months after his guerilla force wondrously killed Gen. Lawton. I mean, real heroes fight to death, right?

In fairness to Gen. Cerio, as he was actually fondly called, his surrender came in the context of the successive captures or surrenders of other revolutionary leaders which, in turn, was apparently the effect of the cowardly stance of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the President of the newly proclaimed (translation: fledging) Philippine Republic.

Captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo did not fight to his death and, instead, swore allegiance to the enemy flag apparently so his life would be spared. His capture and subsequent oath of fealty to the new colonial master, the United States, gradually had the effect of breaking the back of Filipino freedom fighters. A number of other military leaders tried to continue the resistance but amidst the bloody, even ruthless military component of the  "Pacification Campaign" of the emerging world power, Gen. Geronimo and the rest of those who remained fighting probably saw little hope of victory.

Lawton from an Objective View

Still, the fact is that there was a Filipino-American WAR, which meant that the valiant Filipino guerillas who launched a revolution against colonial Spain continued to fight in the war against the new and militarily more superior colonizing army of the US. Still, the fact is that Gen. Henry W. Lawton, celebrated American hero, was felled by a Filipino, a Filipino bullet.

Really. The phrase attributed to him, "If I am shot by a Filipino bullet, it might was well be from one of my own men," came only in Gen. Lawton's wildest dreams. Or, speculatively perhaps, was a propaganda concoction of the US military to try to disprove the Anti-Imperialist League's criticisms of "voice of God"-in- "Benevolent Assimilation" policy of President William McKinley.

Gen. Lawton. White American hero. Conqueror of American Indians. Trophy of Filipino Gen. Geronimo. Plaza Lawton. Change what you know.

*Some accounts state that Lawton either captured Geronimo; others claim the Apache leader surrendered—either to Lawton or another US military official.


Photo Credits:

Sumaquel Macky Hosalla (photo of Gen. Licerio)












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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ampatuan Massacre: The Civil Society Connection

Video of the unearthing of the 57 Maguindanao massacre victims

I cannot imagine the anguish and anger that the families of the nearly 60 victims of the Ampatuan (Maguindanao) massacre might be feeling right now. The prime suspects pointed out by former Senator and Ambassador Ernesto Maceda (and, actually, almost everybody else) are the Ampatuans, those figures "so bold, so powerful, so drunk with power, so murderous." The same figures associated with the huge electoral fraud against 2004 presidential bet Fernando Poe Jr. and the ridiculous 2007 12-0 "victory" of the administration's senate slate Team Unity in Maguindanao province. While I join in its condemnation, I see the case as just an effect, albeit extreme in its wantonness and multiple murderousness, of the undue influence of the hypocritical, undemocratic civil society forces—the same ones that installed and have sustained the Philippine's Illegitimate, a.k.a. "President" Gloria Arroyo.

Maceda calls the kidnapping and killing of the (mostly female) Mangudadatu family members, lawyers and supporters,  media persons and others  "the height of cruelty and devilishness, so unparalleled in Philippine history," with the extreme superlatives perhaps based on earlier reports that some of the victims were beheaded and/or raped. I reckon that Muslim or no Muslim, as the case with the apparent intended targets, or Christians/otherwise as applicable to the media companions, the pain over the sudden loss of loved ones, aggravated by the arbitrariness and senselessness of the killings must be unfathomable.  The anguish must be doubly felt by the families of those who only accidentally trailed the Mangudadatus convoy, or of the media persons who were merely doing their jobs.

In trying to decipher how and why the Maguindanao massacre happened, a host of ideas and theories has been floated. Dean Jorge Bocobo of the Philippine Commentary remarks in Facebook how the Maguindanao/Mindanao culture is marked by vendetta. The government seems to propound the view that the incident is nothing but simple clan warfare.

 It may well be clan warfare, but how would that explain the temerity of the perpetrators to include several dozen unintended victims that include members of the powerful media, a number of whom were connected to national press? How would such a framework account for the reported involvement of the town or local regional policemen? Drug tests done on Mayor Andal Ampatuan jr. belie any theory that the murders were done under a state of temporary insanity. How would a simplistic clan vendetta framework explain the reports that the mass grave was dug up days before, designed to be wide enough to accommodate any and  all companions of the Mangudadatus?

If the Ampatuan massacre were truly only a local, clan-based exercise, the mastermind would not have dared include media people in the crime. No warlord would dare include 22 or so innocent media people in any crime/vendetta killing--unless he is confident of political support from the national government. Fact is, the Ampatuans built their power and influence because, as the Christian Science Monitor puts it, the clan "has been nurtured by the central government for almost 20 years."

Edsa 2 Coup & 2004 Electoral Fraud Worse Crimes

The Ampatuan massacre, with all its genocidal goriness, is not the worst crime perpetrated during this illegitimate administration. The crime of the travesty of the people's electoral will, perpetuated by the civil society, notably through the 2001 "People Power" 2 coup against Estrada and the 2004 cheating of FPJ, the genuine 14th President of the Philippines, is.

To enable and sustain their travesty of the democratic process, the uncivil civil society has been relentless in imposing its undemocratic will on the Filipinos. First, it legitimized the seditious Edsa 2, a.k.a. Oplan-Excelsis manifest, with a never-before-heard "constructive resignation" ruling without resignation letter and without any real presidential incapacity. When the People Power 3 erupted in April-May 2001 in the attempt to rectify the undemocratic ouster of Estrada, the masa participants were not only dismissed and branded "the great unwashed" but, as well, machine-gunned in historic Mendiola.

Throughout all these, the 'civil society' sank into the depths of incivility and disrespect for the Constitution. As Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile put it during his September 22, 2009 privilege speech, in describing the EDSA 2 crowd that President Erap refused to disperse:

Lahat ng pagmumura at pag-aalipusta na ibinato kay Pangulong Estrada at sa amin ay naganap at pinayagan ng mga pastor, mga madre at kaparian doon mismo sa paanan ng malaking imahe ng Birheng Maria sa EDSA.

The mainstream media, by the way, has largely been very much in the continuing conspiracy to mold the Republic not according to the will of the majority but according to theirs. Despite the sacrifice of blood let from the dispersal of Edsa 3, the media generally dismissed the urban revolution of the masses. Such media snootiness (if not heartlessness) against Erap's masa supporters is perhaps best represented by veteran journalist Rowena Carranza's article with a title that says it all: "Excuse me, Please Don't call it People Power III." Even the leftist segment of the civil society did not bother to assail the violent dispersal. It's not clear how many Edsa 3 supporters were killed but I remember Sen. Edgardo Angara lamenting on TV why no investigation was made into the deadly operation.

During the 2004 elections, solons including Liberal Party stalwarts Franklin Drilon, Kiko "Noted" Pangilinan, and Noynoy Aquino, either passively watched the great cover-up or actually actively blocked the opening of the contested COCs that would have revealed whether it was really Arroyo or FPJ who won in the presidential race. This, amidst charges of poll cheating reported in The Daily Tribune and elsewhere, but which the civil society did not denounce. It was only when the "Hello Garci" wiretapped tape evidence of electoral fraud was revealed by ex-NBI Deputy Director Samuel Ong and Atty. Allan Paguia--with FPJ already conveniently dead--that the civil society made some noise.

Let it not be forgotten that the Illegitimate was civil society's own making. They installed Gloria undemocratically, in wanton disrespect of the results of the 1998 elections and with absolutely no regard to the 2000 year-ender and early-January-2001 survey studies showing President Erap as still enjoying positive trust ratings while the confidence ratings of the anti-Estrada figures plummeted.

The Filipino elites, either of pockets or of prejudicial mind, may be heard denouncing Gloria every now and then but it's always in a restrained way seemingly calculated not to let pro-masa politicians regain the reins of power. No wonder that while they swiftly and unceremoniously booted Estrada out of power, they were never able to dethrone Gloria Arroyo despite her never-ending corruption scandals and Hello Garci Illegitimacy.

Civil Society Nurtured the Ampatuans

I am sorry to say but the Ampatuan massacre, gory and monstrous it might be, is merely symbolic of the extreme crimes that the civil society, distinguishable by its consuming prejudices against pro-masa politicians, is capable of. Actually, civil society bears some blame for the Ampatuan massacre! How come? By installing, sustaining, and failing to depose the Illegitimate and "Most Corrupt President in the Philippines, they only further empowered the Ampatuans' warlord-style lawless rule in Maguindanao.

Truth is, the Ampatuan's rise to power began with the civil society personalities associated with the administration of President Cory Aquino. Tingting Cojuangco, Noynoy Aquino's aunt, sponsored the appointment of Zacarias Candao as Maguindanao OIC. Candao later on tapped the Ampatuans to control Maguindanao and manipulate election results. Nonetheless, it was after Edsa II that the clan of Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. reached its peak of power and influence. The Daily Tribune's Herman Tiu-Laurel writes:
"There is no question that Edsa II only strengthened the power of the Ampatuans even more. In sweeping aside the Constitution and justifying the illegal removal of an elected president, thereby legitimizing the illegitimate, Gloria and the rest of the Yellows had to resort to force, deception, and fraud to supplant the Rule of Law."

Hello Garci & Ampatuan Republic

Maguindanao and the Ampatuans were critical in the “election” of Gloria Arroyo as President in 2004. As revealed by the Hello Garci wiretapped evidence of  2004 electoral fraud, Arroyo spoke with former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano over details of efforts to manipulate the outcome of the presidential race in her favor.  In the official vote tally, Arroyo’s lead over opposition bet Fernando Poe Jr. in seven towns controlled by the Ampatuans had the incredible average ratio of 99.83% to 0.17%; in two towns, FPJ even got a near-impossible zero vote each, with all votes going to Arroyo.

The blog Philippine Revolution ventures to write that the "younger Andal knows all the secrets of that Maguindanao Hello Garci operation."  Gloria is very beholden to the Ampatuans for their role in the 2004 electoral fraud, which led to the surreptitious break-of-dawn (actually wee 3:00am of June 24, 2004) proclamation of Arroyo by ex-Senate President Drilon, ex-Speaker de Venecia, ex-Senate majority leader Noted" Pangilinan , etc.

Out of gratitude for the Ampatuan's political support (translation: poll cheating operations for Gloria & party), the government installed via the Edsa 2 coup has promoted the warlord-style lawlessness in Maguindanao. Maceda writes that he's been informed of how Gov. Ampatuan was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia back in 2003 "because he carried $6.3 million, yes million" but after three days, Gloria Arroyo was able to work for his release by interceding with the Saudi king. Further, the elder Ampatuan "is allegedly pocketing the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) released for Maguindanao."

The Ampatuans are well known to be operating a private army that includes deputized paramilitary members and have controlled the province and even the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Gloria and the civil society have long been aware of this but they're probably been only too grateful for the fraudulent votes the Ampatuans have delivered, enough to block the Fernando Poe Jr. presidency and opposition's control of Congress.

On TV, the husband of one of the intended victims, Vice-Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Ismael Mangudadatu, was appealing to "President" Gloria Arroyo for justice. It made me wonder whether he or his family took no part in legitimizing the Illegitimate Gloria via the 2004 poll fraud operations in Maguindanao.  Are the Mangudadatus not also (Muslim) members of the hypocritical 'civil society'?

The massacre of close to 60 people in the warlord's territory in Maguindanao, mostly victimizing somewhat influential individuals, is most abominable; however, it is no crime against the nation, or at least not intended to be. In contrast, the 2001 coup and the 2004 electoral fraud are direct crimes against Philippine democracy, against the people, against the masa majority of Filipinos. The mass killing in Maguindanao is but a by-product of civil society's political crimes against the Republic. The Ampatuan massacre is a gory product of the political culture of impunity bred and nurtured by the uncivil 'civil society' of the Philippines.


Bernardo, Jesusa. " Arroyo, "Hello Garci" and the Anniversary of Her Bogus Presidency." Sobriety for the Philippines. 30 June 2008. http://forthephilippines.blogspot.com/2008/06/arroyo-hello-garci-and-anniversary-of.html
Cacho-Olivares, Ninez. "Oust Estrada plot bared: Business, Church group behind 'Oplan Excelsis' ". The Daily Tribune. 30 Oct. 2000. Originally posted in . Republished in http://www.network54.com/Forum/5345/viewall-page-213. Newsvine. http://jesusabernardo.polls.newsvine.com/_news/2009/10/10/3369444-look-back-oplan-excelsis-plot-to-oust-then-rp-president-joseph-estrada-hatched-in-2000
Carranza, Rowena. "Excuse me, Please Don't call it People Power III." Bulatlat. http://www.bulatlat.com/archive1/011excuse_me.htm
Enrile, Juan Ponce. Enrile defends Estrada. 22 September 2009. In Ellen Tordesillas Blog. 22 September 2009. http://www.ellentordesillas.com/?p
Hello, Garci? Transcript of Three-Hour Tape.PCIJ. http://www.pcij.org/blog/wp-docs/hellogarci-transcript-final.pdf=7336
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
Tiu-Laurel, Herman. The Ampatuans’ Yellow ties. The Daily Tribune. 27 Nov. 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091127com6.html
Maceda, Ernesto. "Ampatuan's Republic". The Daily Tribune. 25 Nov. 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091125com4.html
Maceda, Ernesto. "Drugs in Maguindanao." The Daily Tribune. 27 Nov. 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091127com4.html
Mangubat, Patricio.  Mass Murderer Andal Ampatuan Jr. is surety bond. Nov.. 2009. http://newphilrevolution.blogspot.com/2009/11/mass-murderer-andal-ampatuan-jr-is.html
More witnesses link Ampatuan Jr. to massacre. ABS-CBNnews.com | 11/27/2009 9:19 PM. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/11/27/09/more-witnesses-link-ampatuan-jr-massacre
Pabico, Alecks. The Maguindanao vote: Working 'miracles' again in ARMM? PCIJ. 17 May 2007. http://www.pcij.org/blog/?p=1708
SWS Special Media Release: 22 December 2000. Social Weather Stations Site. http://www.sws.org.ph/pr122200.htm
"The Ampatuan Massacre: a map and timeline." ANALYN PEREZ and TJ DIMACALI, GMANews.TV. 11/25/2009 | 07:48 PM. http://www.gmanews.tv/story/177821/the-ampatuan-massacre-a-map-and-timeline

Photo Credits:


CBS News.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Ghost of FPJ: Beware the Liberal Party?

The ghost of Fernando Poe Jr., or FPJ for short, was reportedly seen by his grave at the Manila North Cemetery on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. The 'apparition' witness asks why FPJ chose to show himself to her. The incident seems to be the first time the man deprived of the 2004 presidential victory "Hello Garci" style made himself visible by his tomb. Could it be that because we are only months away from another opportunity of presidential reckoning, FPJ wants the people to remember? Is Poe Jr., called by many as the genuine 14th President of the Philippines, asking the Filipinos not to vote for all those who conspired to cheat him, hid the real numbers and installed instead the "Hello Garci " perpetrator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Is FPJ asking the people not to vote the parties that operated at either the military/Comelec or congressional canvassing level--Lakas-Kampi and the Liberal Party  (LP)?

Whether or not the apparition is genuine, or that the "ghost" is really that of FPJ or, for that matter, whether ghosts or spirits of dead people are real, Filipinos should well learn from the lessons of the 2004 presidential elections and proclamation fraud. If the people of the Southeast Asian islands with a blatantly colonial name, i.e., the Philippines, are to emerge not necessarily as one and united, but even just as a race dignified by basic morals of fairness and electoral honesty, they would need to learn from its recent electoral history.

As seen in the GMA-7's "24 Oras" news video footage, an apparition or figure of sorts that looked , moved and dressed like FPJ seemed to have left or passed through the late actor's image on the hanged tarpaulin poster hanging by the wall of his tomb. The incident was captured by the cellphone camera of a woman who visited Poe's tomb. A computer video expert concluded that the footage was either genuine or made by a very technologically sophisticated hoaxer.

Why FPJ could warn us of Lakas-Kampi is obvious. The coalition party is, of course, the party of Arroyo--the machinery that has assured legislative conformity with her unpatriotic agenda and, perhaps more importantly, has primarily squashed all the impeachment attempts against her. Why FPJ would warn the Filipinos about the Liberal Party may not seem so obvious but it probably has all to do with how he got cheated in 2004.

The LP, along with Lakas-Kampi, is thought to be responsible for the congressional dimension of the 2004 presidential poll fraud and cover-up. Making an apparition capturable by a phone camera is possibly FPJ's way of reminding of the electoral injustice done to him and the people. 'Don't vote Lakas-Kampi or LP come May 2010,' could be the message of the ghost of the man cheated of presidential victory "Hello Garci" style.

Of course, one could claim that FPJ is playing partisan politics, and probably wants his followers to give him posthomous justice by voting for Chiz Escudero, the "batang trapo" (says the democratically uncivil "civil society) who took the cudgel of being his spokesperson during the 2004 presidential polls. Then again, Poe Jr. could be campaigning for his friend, former President Joseph Estrada who was, in the first place, responsible for convincing him to run against Arroyo in 2004. These two speculations, of course, are hinged on whether the apparition is genuine and/or whether spirits are real.

Liberal Party Record

Skeptics will definitely not buy the message-of-FPJ-ghost theory. One does not need to believe in apparitions to see that the Liberal Party does not really stand for genuine change, however. The party and its stalwarts ex-Sen. Jovito Salonga and now-presidential contender  Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III have a recent history of disrespect for the Constitution and simply being tolerant, if not actually engaging in immoral or unethical politics.

In Oplan Excelsis/EDSA 2 Coup

First, these party big-names helped installed the Illegitimate, later surveyed to be the "Most Corrupt President in Philippine History." During the height of the anti-Estrada movement back in 2000-2001, Salonga was, of course in the forefront of those wanting Erap to resign or be impeached. Noynoy Aquino was then a Congressman for Tarlac. As recounted by The Daily Tribune's Ninez Cacho-Olivares, the only son of the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino and ex-President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, was among those who hailed the move of then-Speaker Manuel "Manny" Villar to transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate-even without the benefit of plenary vote.

When things didn't work out to their liking during the Senate impeachment hearings, the LP members joined those who walked out and amassed in EDSA 2 to oust Estrada. Of course, the 2001 coup was "legitimized" by the Davide court's ruling that Joseph Estrada did "constructive resignation" even in the absence of a resignation letter or actual physical incapacity. Still, that novel , never-before-heard SC decision won't take away the fact that it was a coup, the fruition of Plan B of the Oplan Excelsis revealed in October 2000 by The Daily Tribune, which was, in turn, predated by a series of Manila Standard articles on anti-Estrada destabilization efforts during the early part of the same year.

LP's Role in 2004 Poll Cheating/Cover-up

Next, their disloyalty to the Constitution by way of the penchant for going against the people's will was manifested anew during the 2004 elections. Not only did Salonga, et al. avidly campaign for Arroyo but worse, they took part in what the "Hello Garci" tapes would later reveal to be a fraudulent proclamation of the "President-elect."

As described by Daily Tribune's Demaree Raval, this was accomplished when "the leaders of the LP railroaded the national [congressional] canvass." The LP was "in the thick of the cheating" as its leaders simply noted the objections while members of Fernando Poe's camp "were crying themselves hoarse against the fraud" during the congressional canvassing. It should be recalled that LP Sen. Francisco "Kiko" Pangilinan was the chairman of the Joint Congressional Canvassing Committee.

The opposition camp was trying to present evidence of electoral fraud before the committee but they were basically not allowed to. The lawyers, and congressional supporters of FPJ and running mate Loren Legarda were blocked from having select ballot boxes containing contested certificates of canvass or COCs opened. During the canvassing, Pangilinan earned the moniker of "Sen. Noted" because he struck down all objections and arguments to prove electoral fraud by his frequent utterances of the now-infamous word "Noted."

Raval also writes that opposition solons and lawyers were prevented by LP members from even speaking or presenting "the election returns to prove the lie of the manufactured certificates of canvass." He must be referring to the likes of Cong. Butch Abad, LP representative from Batanes, who silenced the voice of those who justly wanted Congress to look into the evidence of presidential poll fraud. Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, then an LP congressman from Tarlac, might not have actively taken part in railroading the canvass but as journalist Ninez Cacho-Olivares notes, "kept his mouth shut even in the face of massive electoral cheating."

For the flimsy excuse that it would take a long time to study the questioned COCs, the country was deprived of knowing who really won in the 2004 presidential polls. Subsequently, Liberal Party solons led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Pangilinan, along with other congressional cheats, sealed the canvassing charade when they surreptitiously proclaimed Gloria as the "President-elect" during the wee hours of the June 24, 2004. A break-of-dawn congressional proclamation (earlier, actually: 3:38 am) was unprecedented but it succeeded in preempting any protest or opposition action that could have derailed Arroyo's "proclamation."

In the 2004 deprivation of the Filipinos' right to clean and honest polls, the LP played a crucial role. Arroyo, and players like LP members, thought they got away with the great crime that the "Hello, Garci" expose would later unravel.

Telling "Hello Garci' Tapes

The wiretapped evidence of 2004 electoral fraud (OK, alleged) was first exposed in mid-2005. Former National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Samuel Ong later would soon present the master tapes. The wiretapped records that have come to be known as the "Hello Garci" tapes primarily show the conversations between Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and elections commissioner Virgilio "Garci" Garcillano in connection with operations surrounding the May 11 elections and vote canvassing. The operations revealed by the tapes were designed to cheat Arroyo's way towards her continued hold on power and rob FPJ of electoral victory.

The more telling of the tapes shows a woman believed to be Arroyo asking "Garci" to ensure for her a 1 million lead over FPJ. In another dated May 26, 2004, Arroyo informs Garci that she has "allies" in the Senate, which could allow them to delay "the senatorial canvassing until after the voting on the rules" that night.

Actually, even prior to May 2004, the LP seemed to have already taken the resolve to ensure the victory of Arroyo by hook or by crook. Raval writes on the role of the LP in trying to disqualify FPJ from the 2004 presidential elections:

"Even before the elections, the senators belonging to the LP prevented the report of the Angara Committee establishing the Manapat forgeries on the birth certificate of then presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. and the marriage certificate of FPJ's parents."

Raval tags the LP members responsible for the 2004 proclamation of Arroyo as perhaps the country's "worst politicians," having gone "to bed with her, who prostituted themselves for political patronage, who enjoyed the power that went with being with the lying and the cheating and the stealing, then all too suddenly turned against Gloria" when the "Hello Garci" tapes were exposed.

What the Daily Tribune columnist is basically saying is the LP members who took part in the 2004 electoral fraud are immoral political chameleons who could change color as readily as they cried "Garci!" Obviously, why the LP leaders broke off with Gloria in 2005 was the opportunity to make the people falsely believe that they took no part in cheating FPJ in favor of Arroyo.

On July 8, 2005, practically as soon as the "Hello Garci" expose hugged the headlines, Cory called for a news conference where she asked Arroyo to resign. For a time, she continued her demand for the illegitimate's resignation, with her son Noynoy joining in as a good chunk of LP members bolted out of the alliance with Gloria.

This makes one wonder, however, whether the reason why Salonga, et al joined in the "Hello Garci" condemnation was only to make it falsely appear to the late former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino that during the whole time that they went through the motions of canvassing and proclamation, they were totally unaware of Arroyo's cheating? One could even ask whether the LP did it only so that Noynoy would not be chastised by his mother for doing nothing while FPJ was cheated in the canvassing? Either one of these or Cory herself was part of, or aware of, the 2004 poll fraud and cover-up--something rather unlikely.


As early as around April 2004, this column was already aware that poll fraud will be done to ensure Gloria Arroyo's presidential victory. A person rather close to me, and within the vicinity of power no matter how low-key s/he may be, confided that "dadayain" the presidential elections. I remember him/her adding something like "I hope the country can weather the storm that is sure to come."

Salonga and this person share a rather influential organization, one breeding ground of the influential (clue: University of the Philippines). If this resource person of mine was aware of the operation to doctor the 2004 presidential elections, so were Sen. Salonga and, it should logically follow, the rest of Liberal Party biggies.

My resource person did not actually name Salonga or the Liberal Party as parties to the poll fraud plan. Neither did I ask him/her who exactly were involved because I couldn't accept his/her revelations to be true (s/he also vaguely talked of the advanced parties from Gloria's camp as distributing goodies in areas where poll-related surveys were scheduled to be held). I guess I couldn't believe that "good people" in the government would allow something as blatantly immoral as cheating to happen. Suffice it to say, however, that putting the two and two of "Hello Garci," Sen. "Noted," and my resource person's political/organizational ties and revelations together, a not unclear role of the LP in the 2004 presidential poll fraud emerges.

FPJ Ghost or no FPJ Ghost

Whether or not the FPJ cemetery ghost story is real, the Filipino people need to be wary of the Liberal Party of today, nay, punish the party by not voting their bets. By the way, Kris Aquino reportedly is being visited by the spirit of her mom. The late Cory Aquino, it should be recalled, apologized to former President Estrada for part in the "2001 uprising." Noynoy apparently tried to save face for the Liberal Party by claiming that the apology was a joke but the only compromise he was ultimately able to wrangle from his mom was the statement that it was indeed "said in jest but she's not taking it back."

It seems fairly obvious to anyone sober enough not to be taken by the lies of EDSA 2 that Noynoy Aquino's association with LP make him a 'bad trapo'? Is it possible that Cory's ghost is telling the same message--Noynoy be wary of, rather, get out from, the seemingly politically prostituted party that is LP!?

One of my parents was an avid LP supporter. I don't exactly feel good because I never thought I'll be writing something like this about the party to which Diosdado Macapagal and Ninoy Aquino belonged. Change for the moral good, genuine good change, is what our country needs, however. Besides, isn't the need to ensure "clean and honest elections" one of the chief lessons the Philippines is supposed to have learned from the Marcos experience (when even the bird, bees and the dead supposedly voted in 1969, ultimately allowing Apo Ferdie's 1972 declaration of Martial Law)?


Bernardo, Jesusa. Arroyo, "Hello Garci" and the Anniversary of Her Bogus Presidency. Newsvine. 24 June 2007. http://forthephilippines.blogspot.com/2008/06/arroyo-hello-garci-and-anniversary-of.html

Caho-Olivares, Ninez. Of black kettles and pots. The Daily Tribune. 3 Nov. 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091103com2.html

Cacho-Olivares. "Oust Estrada plot bared: Business, Church group behind 'Oplan Excelsis' ". The Daily Tribune. 30 Oct. 2000. Originally posted in . Republished in http://www.network54.com/Forum/5345/viewall-page-213. Reposted in Newsvine, 10 Oct. 2009. http://jesusabernardo.polls.newsvine.com/_news/2009/10/10/3369444-look-back-oplan-excelsis-plot-to-oust-then-rp-president-joseph-estrada-hatched-in-2000

FPJ Nagparamdam Watch It (GHOST). Posted in Youtube 30 Oct. 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=884z_yQ3a7w

Raval, Demaree. Consistency is the dependable standard. The Daily Tribune. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091101com3.html

"Saksi: Cory apologizes for taking part in People Power 2." GMA News.TV. 22 December 2008. http://www.gmanews.tv/video/33611/Saksi-Cory-apologizes-for-taking-part-in-People-Power-2

Video Collection of the Hello Garci? Tapes from Youtube. http://www.youtube.comwatchv=okgENwzIxZw&feature=PlayList&p= 6F58785F3AFB1DA7&index=0&playnext=1

Vigilia, Wendell. "Cory to Erap: Sorry for Edsa 2." Malaya. 23 December 2009. http://www.malaya.com.ph/dec23/news6.htm

Photo Credits: 

FPJ-Da King. http://fpj-daking.blogspot.com/2008/09/fpj-in-people-asia-magazine-covers.html

Laila.net. http://www.ladylaila.net/blog/archives/cat_philippine_politics.html

Philstar. http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleid=498515

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Erap's renewed bid for the Presidency: Can he overcome the media bias?

Defamed and deposed former Philippine President Joseph Ejercito "Erap" Estrada recently announced his bid to seek anew the country's top elective post. Predominantly "masa" (lower classes) supporters numbering around 10,000, as based on police estimates, flocked to the Plaza Amado Hernandez in the capital's urban poor area of Tondo for the nomination of Estrada and his running-mate in the Pwersa ng Masa and PDP-Laban coalition, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

Erap had long indicated his desire to obtain vindication against his ouster in January 2001, done via a veiled conspiracy described by the New York Times as "the opportunist coalition of church, business elite and left [with] former presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos actively [encouraging] the military to take sides against a properly elected president."

Hurdles Aplenty

Standing against Estrada's "Pagbabalik" are a bevy of daunting forces and hurdles that seem reminiscent of the resolve of the old conspirators behind "Oplan Excelsis," the Erap ouster plan reported in October 2000 by the Daily Tribune's Ninez Cacho-Olivares. One of the hurdles he has to overcome before reaching the goal of historical redemption is the formidable mainstream media, which has been instrumental in his demonization--no matter the presence of the continuing Filipino support for him as reflected in periodic survey studies. The rather unwarranted bastos tone of the interview GMA-7 anchor Mel Tiangco gave him during the evening news right after the nomination rally should tell him to prepare well for the demonization component of Part II of the anti-Estrada movement.

The seeming train of orchestrated events targeting his 2010 candidacy began this year with the April 2009 revival of the BW Resources case against supposed Estrada crony Dante Tan, which was already dismissed in 2007. Dacer-Corbito case witness and former PAOCTF agent Cesar Mancao was brought home from the United States, although they were less successful with Glen Dumlao who eventually chose to stick to his claim that he was only tortured to implicate Lacson and Estrada in the murder case.

Then around the same time, former Senate minority floor leader Nene Pimentel and former Sen. Jovito Salonga asked Erap not to run anymore in 2010 as they took turns giving their dissuading opinions that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow him to run anyway. When Erap did not listen, Salonga then appealed to the Filipino people to "respect" the Supreme Court decision, as if he's certain of what the ruling will be. Lacson came next, who asked that Erap "unite" the opposition by giving way to the candidacy of neophyte senator Noynoy Aquino. Lacson then made threats and as the ex-President refused to retreat from the race, took the Senate floor twice to try to deliver some 'bombshell' expose in order to "save the Philippines from Joseph Ejercito alias Joseph Estrada."

Media's Treatment of Estrada

Lacson's privilege speeches did not exactly turn out to be explosive--either because the statements were rehash charges or were belied by other Estrada cabinet officials. One particular point, however, caused some stir with help from the media. Lacson claimed that Estrada used "strong arm tactics" to force businessman Alfredo Yuchengco to sell his shares in the Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications back in 1998. In what appeared to be a coordinated development, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) soon ran a banner story that backs up Lacson's claims. The letter on which the story was based turned out to be unsigned.

Earlier, the PDI also towed Lacson's line when its Sept. 10 headline made it appear that Erap's refusal to give way to presidential hopeful Noynoy Aquino, the neophyte senatorial son of former President Corazon Aquino, served to 'bust' opposition unity. Daily Tribune's Cacho-Olivares had described Noynoy Aquino as the presidential candidate of the Inquirer and broadcast news entity ABS-CBN.

PDI has a seeming history of disfavor, if not animosity, towards Estrada, as seen in its almost regular description of the former President as "convicted plunderer." This, without implying in any way the questionable verdict of the special Sandiganbayan court justices, almost of whom were subsequently promoted to the Supreme Court (one is pending).

Reliable reports paint a 'kangaroo court' picture of Estrada's conviction: some two months before the verdict was handed down, veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas had reported that religious leaders Mike Velarde and Cardinal Vidal were told by Arroyo "that she wanted the Estrada trial to end in a conviction" and the decision will be released "anytime soon," respectively. The Inquirer blames Estrada for the loss of its revenues in 1999 following the pullout by certain businessmen of their advertisements in the newspaper following a series of hard-hitting articles.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Badgering Erap

Back to the rather dissuading, if not humiliating, interview conducted by GMA-7's Tiangco with Estrada. Following is a transcript of the "24 Oras" October 21, 2009 news clip entitled "Interview with Joseph Estrada":

Mike Enriquez: Magandang gabi po Mr. President. Si Mike Enriquez po ito at Mel Tiangco.

Ex-President Joseph Estrada: Magandang gabi sa iyo din kaibigang Mike.

Enriquez: Mayroon pong mga nagsasabi na hindi daw po kayo pinapayagan ng Konstitusyon na tumakbo ulit sa pagka-Pangulo. Ano pong masasabi ninyo diyan Mr. President.

Estrada: Wala. Na-konsulta na natin iyan sa mga retired justices ng Supreme Court at mga dean ng UP law school. Sila ay... masusi nilang pinag-aralan iyan at nagkaisa sila na qualified na qualified daw akong tumakbo bilang Pangulo.

Enriquez: ok, Mr. President. Ang payo nila sa inyo hindi nyo rin nilabag iyong kondisyon noong pagpapatawad na binigay sa inyo ni, o iyong tinatawag na pardon na binigay sa inyo ni Pangulong Arroyo na hindi na kayo kakandidato sa anumang posisyon na tinatawag na elective, Mr. President.

Estrada: Wala pong nakalagay dun sa dispositive portion ng pardon. Yun pong nakalagay po doon: "restoring all civil and political rights." Ang ibig pong sabihin noon, kung pwede akong bumoto, pwede rin akong butohin.

Enriquez: Opo, Mr. President. Isang tanong na lang po ako bago po si Mel Tiangco. Bukod po kay Mayor Jejomar Binay na katambal ninyo sa pagiging kandidato sa pagiging bise-presidente, mayroon ding senatorial line up na, na buo na?

Estrada: Ah, hindi pa. Siguro mayroon na kaming walo hanggang sampu.

Enriquez: Ok, Mr. President. Salamat po. Eto po si Mel Tiangco.

Tiangco: "Sir, hindi maganda ang karanasan ninyo sa Malacanang, bakit gusto n'yo pang bumalik doon?

Estrada: Ano?

Tiangco: Bakit ho gusto nyo pang bumalik sa Malacanang, eh kayo na rin ang nagkwekwento kanina na napakapangit ng experience nyo … minsang kayo ay Pangulo ng ating bansa.

Estrada: Napakapangit dahil nagsabwatan sila at ako ay napilitang bumaba. Ang katotohanan nga ay si dating Pangulong Cory Aquino ang nagssisisi kung bakit sumali siya sa EDSA 2. At ako naman ay, iyong mga programa ko para sa kapakanan ng mga mahihirap ay hindi ko nagawa kaya gusto kong ipagpatuloy.

Tiangco: Palagi ninyong nababanggit na kayo ay inosente, hindi totoo ang ang mga pinaratang sa inyo. Eh bakit po tumagal ng anim na taon Sir. Anim na taon kayong nilitis sir, di ba?

Estrada: Anim na taon nga at anim na buwan. Wala silang napatunayan na nagnakaw ako kahit na isang kusing sa kaban ng bayan. Ang totoo nga niyan ay nagtayo ng Task Force ang DOJ--lahat ng kontrata na naaprobahan sa aking administrayon ay hinimay. Himay nila at wala silang nakita na isa mang kontrata na may halong anumalya, sa ano mang kontrata.

Tiangco: Eh bakit po pardon ang naibigay sa inyo

Estrada: Ha?

Tiangco: Bakit po pardon?

Estrada: Ewan ko sa kanila?

Tiangco: Hindi po kaya sabi ng ilang diyan ay kaya nais nyo lang tumakbong muli ay para daw balikan iyong mga nagpatalsik sa inyo?

Estrada: Alam mo Mel, sa aking anim na taong ako ay nakakulong ay nalapit tayo sa panginoon. at laging pinaaalala sa akin ng panginoon iyong Lord's Prayer. Iyong ama namin. iyon mga nagkasala sa iyo ay dapat mo ring patatawarin : "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sins against us." Kaya iyan po ang malapit na malapit na parang laging pinararamdam sa atin ng ating panginoon.

Tiangco: Maraming maraming salamat po sa oras na binigay ninyo sa 24 oras. Magandang gabi po.

Estrada: Salamat, salamat Mel.

While both interviewee and interviewer remained 'polite' all throughout, vexation and put down were arguably detectable at some points in the tones of their voices or body languages.

On the point of the six-month trial and pardon, respectively, Tiangco was obviously implying that Erap was convicted and was therefore guilty of some crime and not innocent as claimed. In a politely veiled manner, the news anchor was arguing against the former President's statements.

Estrada was taken aback--as in he seemed to have been on the way to turning his back and concluding the interview were it not for another question hurled at him. Those who understand the political nature of Estrada's arrest and legal cases are aware that as far as government funds and contracts are concerned, the former President comes off clean.

The ousted leader obviously couldn't answer the "why pardon" question because to do so would be to claim that Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, and Francisco Villaruz Jr were kangaroo court justices, which would imply an ungentlemanly or unethical undermining of the pardon he accepted.

Tiangco very well knew what she was driving at because she's a veteran journalist who began with Channel 4 way back the Martial Law days. Established press figures like her are, in fact, well ahead of the news. By badgering Erap with such questions, is she saying that she is unaware of reports of Vidal/Velarde's knowledge of Arroyo's manipulation of the Plunder verdict? Is she saying that she does not even suspect the kangaroo court character of the Special Division of Sandiganbayan, with its two justices being subsequently promoted to Supreme Court positions (Villaruz is in the shortlist of SC nominees)? As news anchor and official of GMA-7, it can safely be assumed that her news objectivity, or lack of it, is representative of the network's own position.

'Star Struck' Interview of Noynoy

It is easier to see through the slant in Tiangco's interview if it is compared with the interview conducted with Sen. Noynoy Aquino, along with Sen. Mar Roxas, on September 21, 2009 right after the Liberal Party stalwarts formally announced their tandem for the 2010 presidential elections in Club Filipino.

Following are the questions thrown at Noynoy , by Pia Arcangel and Raffy Tima based on my transcript of the "QTV: Live interview with Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino":

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__: Kay Senador Aquino naman ho, ngayon kasado na ho ang tambalang Aquino-Roxas para sa 2010, ano sa tingin ninyo ang pagbabagong dadalhin ng inyong tandem sa election race, ika nga.

__: Hindi rin ho kayo nahirapan na kumbinsihin si Senador Roxas na maging running mate nyo, dahil sabi nga ninyo matagal na ho kayong magkaibigan ni Senador Roxas.

__: Sa tingin ninyo Senador Aquino iyong pagkakaibigan o iyong friendship malaking tulong po ito sa inyong pangangampanya at inyong pagtakbo?

__: Senador Aquino, may nakatakda po kayong pagpupulong kay dating Pangulong Estrada, di po ba? Ano po kaya ang paguusapan dito at anong changes kaya ang mangyayari kapagka nagusap kayo ni dating Pangulong Estrada.

__: Senador, may pagkakataon pa po ba kayong magkaisa ang oposisyon. Kung di man ho magkaisa sa iisang kandidato ay malimitahan yung mga kandidatong oposisyon

__: Sen. Mar Roxas at Sen. Aquino, mapunta naman tayo sa medyo live na isyu. Eh kumusta naman po ang paghahanda sa inyong kasal, Senador Mar? Kung nagkataon eh parehong single ang pupunta sa palasyo.

__: So next year na po si Senador Aquino.

__: Senador, mukha hong nag-eenjoy kayo sa inyong, well, friendship. At ito nga, sabi ninyo, malaking bentahe ito sa inyong pangangampanya at sa kagustuhan ninyon suportahan kayo, lalo na ng mga kabataan.

__: Senador Aquino, bukod po kay dating Pangulong Estrada, may mga balak pa po ba kayong kausapin?

__: Gaanong kalaking factor ho ngayon ang suporta ng inyong mga pamilya dito sa inyong ginawang desisyon ngayon?

Watching the Tiangco portion of the "24 Oras" interview with Erap made me cringe both from disapproval at the rather callously inappropriate line of questioning and from the discomfort of watching Erap slide from proclamation "high" into interrogation put down. Imagine the subject were not Erap but another comebacking politician who just concluded his proclamation rally--how would it sound for a news anchor to hammer on why the former public official had to run again? Wouldn't that be considered bastos by any decent journalistic standards?

Contrast the badgering Erap got with the kids' glove treatment the network gave Noynoy. Same interview format for the two presidentiables right after after their respective formal declaration of intent to run in 2010: two interviewers--female and male who hurled questions one after the other. While GMA-7 subjected ex-President Estrada to an interrogation-style interview, Sen. Aquino was accorded brattish tweetums TV time.

Is it by sheer "luck" that Noynoy was asked rather 'beautiful' questions in the tradition of "Star Struck": about his "friendship" with, and how he wooed his VP bet; and "family support" behind the decision to run? Or is it by the network's deliberate design?

Of course, the sets of interviewers were different--veterans for Erap and a little less for Noynoy--but is that an excuse for a pronounced journalistic slant? The interview with Sen. Aquino was conducted by children's program "Art Angel" host Pia Arcangel and Raffy Tima, who might be a commended news producer but is still very "soft" in interview work. It was reported by QTV, which is a television network owned by GMA Network, Inc., with the video published at the GMA News website. If the interview was not deliberately designed to be pro-Noynoy, shouldn't the network have assigned the task to the politically sharper hosts such as Tiangco and Enriquez or others?

What GMA-7 should have asked Noynoy

If the network that describes itself as "Walang Kinikilingan..." were genuinely even half as fair and non-prejudicial, it would have been as polite and tweetums in its interview with Estrada as it was with Noynoy. After all, it's hardly politically correct to turn an interview of a former leaders ousted by a conspiracy into a prosecution-style interrogation on the very occasion of the proclamation of his political comeback. Actually, such a badgering interview bordering on humiliation--given the context of the occasion--is politically incorrect regardless of who the interviewee is.

Then again, the "Kapuso" network is a proud member of the Fourth Estate tasked to serve as watchdog that ferrets out the truth and is exempted, perhaps, from the dictates of political correctness. Still, the network should have been as tough-talking and callously inquisitive in its interview with Noynoy. It would have been a lot more real and unbiased had GMA-7 asked presidentiable Noynoy questions that hewed somewhat to the following:

Host: Magandang umaga ho, Senador Aquino. Hindi po ba't humingi ng tawad ang inyong ina na si yumaong Pangulong Corazon sa kanyang naging bahagi sa pagpapatalksik kay dating Pangulong Estrada, eh bakit ho tumatakbo kaya ngayon?

Host: Hindi ho ba dapat suportahan n'yo na lang ang kandidatura ni Pangulong Erap bilang paggalang sa naging posisyon ng inyong ina?

Host: Napabalita po noon na kinausap ng inyong ina si Erap upang ipasok kayo sa line-up ng oposisyon noong 2007 elections, hindi po ba? Kinonsidera nyo ho ba ang bagay na ito sa desisyon ninyong tumakbo bilang pangulo at lumaban sa mga ibang kandidato kabilang na si dating Pangulong Estrada?

Host: Ang sabi ho ng ilan ay itinakwil ni yumaong Pangulong Aquino ang EDSA 2 nang humingi siya ng tawag kay dating Pangulong Estrada. Ano ho ang inyong posisyon? Itinatakwil nyo rin ho ba ang pangyayaring iyon sa kasaysayan ng ating bayan?

Host: Senador Aquino, bakit ho sa Club Filipino kayo nag-deklara ng inyong kahandaan tumakbo sa pagka-Pangulo sa susunod na halalan? Ginagaya ho ba natin ang nangyaring proklamasyon bilang Pangulo ng inyong ina noong 1986?

Host: Noon hong 1985 o 1986, tinanggap lamang ng inyong ina ang hamon na kumandidato laban kay Marcos nang naiprisinta na sa kanya ang isang milyong pirma na nagu-udyok sa kanyang tumakbo. Kayo ho ba ay tumatakbo dahil nakatanggap na din kayo ng kaparehong bilang ng pirma ng mga taong nais kayong lumahok sa halalan sa pagka-Pangulo sa 2010?

Host: Sinasabi ho ng ilang kritiko na hindi ho naging lubos na matagumpay and Reporma sa Lupa sa panahon ni Dating Pangulong Aquino. Ano hong ba ang gagawin ninyo tungkol sa isyung ito sakaling manalo kayo bilang Pangulo? Ano ho ang plano ninyo at ng inyong mga kamag-anak sa Hacienda Luisita?

Host: Senador Noynoy, meron pong nagsasabing hindi naman daw ho talagang maganda ang inyong legislative performance. Ano ho kaya ang magagawa ninyo bilang Pangulo sakaling mahalalal kayo?

Host: Huling tanong na laman po. Buo na ho ba ang inyong senatorial line-up?

Overcoming the Media Bias

In fairness to GMA-7, it is not the only network that has exhibited a critical tendency against Estrada. Back in 2001, it joined ABS-CBN in the demonization of the former President and the corollary celebration of the "People Power II" coup by covering the 4-day uprising practically 24/7 and running their respective 'Edsa 2 victory' video clips soon after Erap's ouster. It should be mentioned, however, that GMA-7 ran their celebratory EDSA 2 video days, if not weeks, longer than did ABS-CBN (I well took mental note of that).

Both networks can be said to be guilty of condescending treatment of the pro-Erap EDSA 3, giving it minimal coverage. It was only non-mainstream Net 25, owned by Iglesia ni Cristo," which covered "People Power 3" full time.

In other words, hindi nag-iisa ang GMA-7 in having a history of either belittling political actions of the masses or simply being biased against Estrada. Veteran journalist Rowena Carranza wrote snootily about EDSA 3, with the title saying it all: "Excuse me, Please Don't call it People Power III.' Carranza, of the print media, along with the PDI, is not alone in the tendency to negatively portray either the former President or his supporters, or both.

The TV, radio, and mainstream print media, along with the blogosphere, are littered with anti-Erap content, whether or not veiled in pretenses of objectivity. Cacho-Olivares of the Daily Tribune, a fiery but hardly mainstream media entity, laments the resurgence of the demonization of Erap in time with his renewed bid for the presidency:

"With the Erap magic still glowing, as shown by the crowd of thousands that went to Tondo to witness Erap Estrada's official declaration to run for the presidency, there went the usual elite civil socialites, once again demonizing him, and even saying that Estrada has a poor track record and a bad Cabinet.

One truly wonders where they get their facts, because official records show that Estrada certainly did a better job as President than their anointed has.

In explaining the political longevity of Arroyo despite huge problems in corruption and hunger, nationalist economist and political analyst Alejandro Lichauco writes that despite obvious support of the majority of Filipinos, Erap is faced with the problem of his inability to get a considerable segment of the upper and middle classes to his side, which includes the opinion makers, along with the intellectuals and revolutionary leaders. Alejandro continues: "While that class is numerically insignificant, it holds the levers of political power."

It is clear that the media is not the only hurdle for the ousted President. Military support--not necessarily in terms of loyalty to him but to the majority of the Filipinos--is perhaps even more important. Granting that the nation is able to maintain some democratic space for 'press freedom,' however, the opinion maker that is the media remains an important tool that would make or break Joseph Ejercito Estrada's "final, final performance."



Bowring, Philip. Filipino Democracy Needs Stronger Institutions. New York Times. 22 January 2001. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/22/opinion/22iht-edbow.t_3.html

Cabacungan Jr., Gil and Norman Bordadora. "Estrada busts opposition’s hopes of unity." Inquirer. net. 10 September 2009. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090910-224481/Estrada-busts-oppositions-hopes-of-unity

Cacho-Olivares, Ninez. "Demonizing Erap Again." The Daily Tribune. 23 October 2009. http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20091023com2.html

Cacho-Olivares, Ninez. "Oust Estrada plot bared: Business, Church group behind 'Oplan Excelsis' ". The Daily Tribune. 30 Oct. 2000. Originally posted in . Republished in http://www.network54.com/Forum/5345/viewall-page-213. Newsvine. http://jesusabernardo.polls.newsvine.com/_news/2009/10/10/3369444-look-back-oplan-excelsis-plot-to-oust-then-rp-president-joseph-estrada-hatched-in-2000

"Estrada bullied me, says Yuchengco." Inquirer.net. 16 September 2009. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090916-225393/Estrada-bullied-me-says-Yuchengco

"Estrada sues PDI, Yuchengco for libel." The Daily Tribune. 18 September 2009. http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/20090918hed1.html

"Excuse me, Please Don't call it People Power III." Bulatlat. http://www.bulatlat.com/archive1/011excuse_me.htm

"Interview with Joseph Estrada." GMA-7. 21 Oct. 2009. http://www.gmanews.tv/video/49649/interview-with-joseph-estrada

Kapunan, Rod. "Delicadeza, dead and forgotten word." The Daily Tribune. 08 December 2007. http://www.classicposters.com/commentary/20071208com3.html

Lacson spills beans on Estrada. VERA Files. 14 September 2009. http://www.verafiles.org/index.php/focus/341-lacson-spills-beans-on-estrada

Lichauco, Alejandro. "GMA Regime Endures Despite Hunger, Corruption." The Daily Tribune. 22 May 2008. http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20080522com3.html

"Mancao lawyer, Erap Cabinet clear Estrada on Lacson raps." The Daily Tribune. http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20090916hed2.html

Now Official! Ex-President Joseph Erap Estrada Will Run For Re-Election In 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2kSwQPj8FE&feature=related

QTV: Live interview with Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino. 21 September 2000. GMA News TV. http://www.gmanews.tv/largevideo/related/48020/qtv-live-interview-with-mar-roxas-and-noynoy-aquino

Tordesillas, Ellen. Velarde, Vidal Know About Guilty Verdict In Estrada Trial. Ellen Tordesillas Blog. 5 July 2009. http://www.ellentordesillas.com/?p=1352

Zamore, Fe. "Remembrance of things past: Erap did it, too." Inquirer.net. 15 August 2009. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090815-220371/Remembrance-of-things-past-Erap-did-it-too

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