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.

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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":

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

__: 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.

Cabacungan Jr., Gil and Norman Bordadora. "Estrada busts opposition’s hopes of unity." Inquirer. net. 10 September 2009.

Cacho-Olivares, Ninez. "Demonizing Erap Again." The Daily Tribune. 23 October 2009.

Cacho-Olivares, Ninez. "Oust Estrada plot bared: Business, Church group behind 'Oplan Excelsis' ". The Daily Tribune. 30 Oct. 2000. Originally posted in . Republished in Newsvine.

"Estrada bullied me, says Yuchengco." 16 September 2009.

"Estrada sues PDI, Yuchengco for libel." The Daily Tribune. 18 September 2009.

"Excuse me, Please Don't call it People Power III." Bulatlat.

"Interview with Joseph Estrada." GMA-7. 21 Oct. 2009.

Kapunan, Rod. "Delicadeza, dead and forgotten word." The Daily Tribune. 08 December 2007.

Lacson spills beans on Estrada. VERA Files. 14 September 2009.

Lichauco, Alejandro. "GMA Regime Endures Despite Hunger, Corruption." The Daily Tribune. 22 May 2008.

"Mancao lawyer, Erap Cabinet clear Estrada on Lacson raps." The Daily Tribune.

Now Official! Ex-President Joseph Erap Estrada Will Run For Re-Election In 2010.

QTV: Live interview with Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino. 21 September 2000. GMA News TV.

Tordesillas, Ellen. Velarde, Vidal Know About Guilty Verdict In Estrada Trial. Ellen Tordesillas Blog. 5 July 2009.

Zamore, Fe. "Remembrance of things past: Erap did it, too." 15 August 2009.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

God, Typhoon Ondoy & the Philippines: Review of Church-Arroyo relations

IN the face of the devastation and casualties wrought by typhoon Ondoy, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines head Rev. Angel Lagdameo asks whether God is giving the Filipinos 'hints' of the "future and even the coming elections?" He wonders whether there is a connection between all the corruption and lies, the loss of integrity and the mounting "destruction of morality and moral values" under the government of Gloria Arroyo and the natural "calamities occurring in increasing number and intensity."

According to the website of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the typhoon's interaction with the seasonal southwest moonsoon gave a "record 13.43 inches of rain fell in Manila in the six hours between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. local time, which is equivalent to about a month's worth of rain for the area." The resulting enormous flash floods washed away homes, cars, downed fence walls, stranded people in the streets, drowned others, and sent even city people to rooftops and the desperate crossing the cables of electricity posts for safety. Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) left the capital and other parts of Luzon island devastated, with over 300 dead and damages worth P2.75 billion to infrastructure and P6 billion to agriculture.

Why don't the bishops partly take responsibility for the Arroyo evil? After all, the Philippine Catholic Church by and large supported the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada and the para-constitutional installation of the Illegitimate back in early 2001.

What follows is a look back to the eight-year Arroyo-Church relations based on my August 2006 and 2008 archived articles.

Background: (Church helps oust Caesar, circa 2001)

Back in early 2001, the Catholic Church was instrumental in the constitutionally anomalous ouster of Joseph Estrada and in Arroyo's succeeding as President. Crucial to the success of the EDSA 2 mob that deposed the hugely-popular-with-the-masses Estrada and installed bogus "President" Arroyo was 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, and 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.

August 2006 - The bishops should undo an Arroyo wrong

Data from a top independent survey firm show an alarming trend of double-digit incidence of hunger in over straight years. Corruption in government ballooned to unprecedented levels such that since Arroyo's ascent to power, Transparency International has consistently rated the Philippines with having endemic corruption. Violations of human rights are back to, or worse than Martial Law levels, 25 years ago. The gory deaths of two university coeds add to the hundreds of extra judicial killings recorded in only five years. Amid all these crises, the Filipinos have been waiting for the Church leaders to beckon them to a moral but decisive course of action.

The least the bishops should really do now is to collectively declare support for the impeachment in order to boost its chances of passing through the administration-controlled Congress. The more ideal move, though, would be for the Catholic Church to join in the clamor for Arroyo to step down, as it so loudly and boldly did against then President Joseph Estrada. But as the CBCP, the official organization of Catholic episcopacy, chose to remain lame and tolerant towards a publicly pious regime but which runs the country like hell, any sensible Catholic can't help but question and suspect.

It is perplexing how the wise fathers can continue to believe Arroyo's virtual reality of good governance and moral leadership. Is it that in the Church's calling to influence state policies affecting morals, they have elected to regard the stifling of basic political freedoms as necessary collateral damage? Or is the CBCP simply afraid to admit that the EDSA II Revolt, which deposed her predecessor, was a debacle of grim national proportions? Or are the bishops perhaps amiss with the spirit of humility such that they refuse to atone and undo their Arroyo wrong?

Not since the Spanish colonial era has the Catholic Church in the Philippines enjoyed the kind of influence it wields under Mrs. Arroyo's reign. Is it not enough that the devoutly religious Filipinos have tolerated the blurring of the divide separating the Church and the State? Only a month prior to the impeachment issues, the Church lauded the repeal of the death penalty in an unusually hasty action by Congress. When its leader Rev. Angel Lagdameo restated a few days later that the CBCP will not stand to support another impeachment nor will ask Arroyo to resign, the bishops have invited seemingly valid suspicions that the Church is as power hungry as the President it helped install. It is either that or in the crusade to save the unborn and the capital offenders, the Church in the Philippines blindly refuses to break its pact with the devil.

December 2008 - Flagging Filipino Christian spirit

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.
[In exchange for Catholic prelate support], she practically adopted Church teachings on population planning and even gave in to Church pressures against the death penalty. Despite the backing of the Church however, Arroyo's presidency has been shown in periodic surveys as the most distrusted and disliked, with double figure negative trust ratings and with more than half of the population, the masses in particular, wanting her to either resign or be removed...

So clear that the Philippine Catholic church is in part responsible for Arroyo's reign of political immorality and disastrous governance. The government they helped install and have supported for so long is so corrupt and mismanaged it couldn't even give the capital region a semblance of decent preparedness for natural disasters. Many have decried that the government was nowhere during the critical hours of the Ondoy flash floods, with its responsibilities taken up largely by private entities and the broadcast media.

Lagdameo concludes the very politically polite CBCP statement with: Nagtatanong lang kami! We do not have the answer! That is why let us also pray!"The men in robes are unsure of the answers now but they were so sure what to do during the heyday of the anti-Estrada movement. The prelates and nuns should have just confined themselves to praying back in late 2000-January 2001.

Excerpts taken from:

Bernardo, Jesusa. Will the Filipino bishops undo an Arroyo wrong? August 2006. Published at Sobriety for the Philippines Blog 4 May 2007.

Bernardo, Jesusa. Blaring Simbang Gabi sound speakers & the flagging Christmas spirit. 23 December 2008.

(Updated Oct 6, 2009 1:30 AM HK+8 )



Additional Findings on Corruption-Related Issues (Most/Least Corrupt Philippine Presidents). Pulse Asia Site. 2007.

Lagdameo, Angel. Year 2009, Typhoons: Are they God's Hints?. CBCP Website. 2 October 2009.

NASA. Hurricane Season 2009: Typhoon Ketsana (Western Pacific).

"Second Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: PGMA’s net rating falls to record-low –38." 18 July 2008. Social Weather Stations Site.

The Most Corrupt President in Philippine History: Table 2. PulseAsia Site.

2 storms’ damage now P8.4B. 5 Oct. 2009. Business Mirror Site. News

Photo Credits: Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). 30 Sept. 2009.

BBC News. In pictures: Cardinal Sin's life. 21 June 2005.

Philippines is in Urgent Need for Help: Typhoon Ondoy Aftermath.

Slideshow: After ‘Ondoy,’ Grief. 30 Sept. 2009.

UNITAR/UNOSAT.  Canadian Space Agency Image processing. Map created 29 Sept. 2009.

Callousness and 7 Years of Gloria Arroyo's Performance Dissatisfaction

  • (This is an old December 18, 2007 article I posted at Newsvine but which, for some reason, I was unable to post here at Sobriety for the Philippines. I'm publishing this now for my blog readers' sake.)

The latest national survey on Philippine president Gloria Arroyo reveals once more the negative perception and sentiment of the Filipinos towards her presidency. Just a few weeks earlier, in October 2007, a different survey by the Pulse Asia group revealed how Filipinos regard her as the "most corrupt" president, beating the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the title. True to her apparently indurate character, seven years of unofficial public expression to her regime have sadly only fallen on deaf ears.

According to the last quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) polling firm for 2007, Arroyo's net satisfaction performance rating (satisfied minus dissatisfied) is now negative 16 percent, 5 points down from the past quarter's -11 mark. Dissatisfaction with the president rose in almost all geographic areas and across all socio-economic brackets. Even her traditional 'bailiwick', the Visayas islands, registered negative, and so did the upper social classes from which base she gets some support.

The negative mark came despite the general public approval of the executive clemency she granted to former President Joseph Estrada in October. The same survey showed that 54 percent of Filipinos approved of the pardon to Estrada who was accused, tried and found guilty of Plunder under very controversial circumstances. Another earlier survey by SWS presented the majority belief of Filipinos (62%) that Estrada did not engage in corruption during his term; majority also expected his acquittal from the charges pinned against him by Arroyo's government . Historical surveys from 2001 until 2007 have depicted how Filipinos increasingly disbelieved the accusations of Plunder against Estrada.

Arroyo came to power in 2001 through EDSA 2, a civilian-backed military uprising that removed Estrada from power. The International Herald Tribune reported that the "opportunist coalition of church, business elite and left," and former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Corazon Aquino orchestrated the uprising that culminated with the defection of the top military brass.

The defamed President was elected in 1998 with the highest percentage of plurality lead votes in the entire electoral history of the Philippines since gaining its Independence: Estrada garnered a lead of 23.7% from his nearest rival House Speaker Jose de Venecia. Following his arrest on charges of Plunder by the Arroyo administration, a much larger civilian uprising known as EDSA 3 tried, but failed, to reinstate Estrada in May 2001 because of the lack of the prerequisite military support.

The only President to Ever Score Dissatisfaction

Arroyo is the only president, since 1986 when the SWS surveys on Philippine presidents began, to ever receive negative net performance ratings, and for persisting periods, at that.. Even the predecessor she helped depose, President Joseph Estrada, never crossed the neutral or zero level satisfaction rating. Well into the height of the "Erap Resign" demonstrations led by two former Presidents and herself, the business elite and the Roman Catholic Church, Estrada held on to a +9 net public satisfaction rating in the December 8-17 last quarter survey of 2000.

As a matter of fact, even as Vice-President, Gloria Arroyo already earned the dissatisfaction and distrust of the Filipinos. The same fourth quarter SWS survey for 2000 demonstrated a foreboding of what would be her place in public perception for the next seven years. Apparently because of her role in the 'Erap Resign' movement calculated to benefit her as the constitutional successor, the survey firm reported that Gloria suffered "EXTREME CUT IN POPULARITY," earning her "a -4 (36% satisfied vs. 40% dissatisfied), compared to +63 (73% satisfied vs. 11% dissatisfied) in the previous quarter."

Additionally, SWS president Mahar Mahangas' report on their last survey on Estrada's presidency, showed that the former leader enjoyed a relatively high +11 net national trust rating; in stark contrast, the same survey presented a net distrust rating of 11 points for Estrada's next-in-line. The survey that measured the trust confidence of the people was conducted some two weeks before Estrada was forced to leave Malacanang (January 6-9, 2001).

The president to hold the distinction of having received the lowest net SWS satisfaction rating next to Arroyo was Fidel Ramos, who received net ratings of +1 and +2 in two quarters of 1995; however, even the former leader considered to be a "minority president" never crossed the negative line of public satisfaction.

Uncannily for a President that was supposed to have been installed by popular uprising and likewise supposed to have won the May 2004 elections, Arroyo has suffered negative net satisfaction ratings for practically 15 out of her total 28 quarters as president, or over half of her regime. Only two years into Arroyo's administration, the incumbent leader dubbed by Estrada's supporters as the "power grab president" began her nearly consistent show of negative satisfaction, as according to SWS periodic survey studies. Even her "best" consecutive show of two quarters in 2004 is tainted with doubt because there were allegations that her administration unduly influenced the SWS survey results during the period by sending "advanced" PR and outreach mission teams to the targeted SWS sampling populations, the knowledge of which they somehow managed to obtain.

Filipinos' dissatisfaction with Arroyo has been so negative so much so that she has practically lowered the benchmark for surveys on presidents. Every time there gets to be a percentage movement nearer zero level, Arroyo's drumbeaters would joyously proclaim that she has gained public acceptance--seemingly forgetting or ignoring the fact that her overall performance is still adjudged as negative or unsatisfactory. Where before, social weather polls that showed presidents were nearing the dissatisfaction mark would set them into almost a state of panic and take appropriate measures, Arroyo's continued unsatisfactory performance betrays her callous regard of what the Filipinos think.

The highest public level of net satisfaction rating she obtained was +30 percent while the lowest rating was -30 percent. The country's past post-Martial Law presidents all shared satisfaction ratings that nearly hugged the +70 percent at their peaks and of course, never once fell into the embarrassing position of being negatively adjudged by the people. The extra-constitutional ascent to power, an almost endless litany of corruption issues, and allegations of cheating in the May 2004 elections that have marked Arroyo's presidency are generally thought to account for her protracted very unsatisfactory performance.

  • The SWS is an established polling firm and is considered Asia's oldest. SWS' Mangahas is a recipient of the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) Helen Dinerman Prize. National survey results of the firm are oftentimes cited by Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address and in certain other government pronouncements.



Bowring, Philip. "Filipino Democracy Needs Stronger Institutions" 22 Jan. 2001. International Herald Tribune.

Mangahas, Mahar. "16 Feb. 2001." Social Weather Stations.

SWS media release to the 2007 4th Quarter survey that shows Arrobo's renewed slip to 2-digit negative satisfaction and public approval of the Estrada pardon:

Fourth Quarter 2007 Social Weather Survey: GMA's net satisfaction rating falls to -16, even if 54% approved her pardon of Erap.

Survey held weeks before the Sandiganbayan judgment, which shows an overwhelming majority of Filipinos now do not believe that Estrada engaged in corruption as President (September 2-5, 2007 Social Weather Survey:
Majority expected Erap to be acquitted.)

Tabular data on Arroyo and Comparative data on the four Presidents (Net Satisfaction Ratings of Presidents
Philippines, May 1986 to June 2007, & (2003 4th Qtr. SWS survey).

SWS 4th Quarter Survey: Ratings of GMA, Davide, Congress, Supreme Court Suffer Amid Political Discord.

December/4th Qtr. 2000 SWS Survey: ERAP Hangs on to +9 Net -Satisfaction, AS CLASSES AND REGIONS POLARIZE.

(Results of Past Presidential & Vice-Presidential Polls in the Republic of the Philippines.) Philippine Presidency Project.

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