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Criminally tainted candidates

Our Marian pilgrimage group had just checked in on Sunday night at the Grand Hotel in Assisi, the town of St. Francis, after whom San Francisco, California and Pope Francis are named, when we tuned in to CNN. Fareed Zakaria, one of the network’s more incisive commentators, had a very interesting special report about the recently-concluded elections in India, the results of which had started to come in. According to him, as many as 40% of the candidates are facing criminal cases and up to 29 have criminal records. Zakaria, who is Indian-American, said this was not unusual in Indian political contests. Although not necessarily proven guilty, these candidates have gained notoriety for their unlawful – or, at least, legally questionable – public behavior, but that hasn’t stopped them from “courting” the voters.

Honoring those who stayed behind

I am writing this in Lourdes, France, the town of St. Bernadette to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary showed herself 18 times over a period of six months, from February to July, 1858. My wife and I are part of a pilgrimage to holy sites where Mother Mary appeared before young children to deliver messages to the world. Our trek began in Fatima in Portugal, stopped over in Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, and will culminate in Rome, with a visit to the Vatican and, hopefully, an audience with Pope Francis.

Because it’s the right thing to do

The survey rankings of senatorial candidates in next week’s mid-term elections can shatter the positive attitude of even the most idealistic among us. Some of the worst candidates -- not just undeserving, but pure garbage -- are among the list of probable winners.

Eenie meenie mini mor, who should I vote for senator?

I have just filled out my ballot as an overseas Filipino qualified to vote in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections. While we are outside the Philippines, dual citizens like me are entitled to vote for party-list contenders and for national officials -- in this case, senatorial candidates.

Do public officials really want to stop corruption?

That’s like asking if fish want to get rid of water. The answer is a resounding NO.

Where are the patriots?

One of the most touching chapters in El Filibusterismo, Jose Rizal’s sequel to the Noli Me Tangere, was when Padre Florentino asked plaintively, “Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land? Where are the youth who will generously pour out their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination?”


First, Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo described as “futile” the recent complaint against Chinese President Xi Jingping filed by former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales over China’s transgressions in the West Philippine Sea. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a blunt warning to his erstwhile friend to back off from Pagasa Island or else he will order “suicide missions” against the obviously superior Chinese forces.

Facebook or Fakebook?

Poor Nic Gabunada. He is being crucified for being good at what he does. Gabunada, a former ABS-CBN research specialist, is credited with harnessing social media to help President Rodrigo Duterte win in the 2016 elections.

The time for blaming is over….

Maybe President Rodrigo Duterte has now realized that his vow to end the drug menace in three months...make it one year...no, no, make it up to the end of his six-year term...was all bluster. Kayabangan.

What you mean we?

The horrible mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 (so far) and wounded another 50, was the handiwork of someone believed to be a white supremacist.

Anyone can be president

The late great comedian Dolphy had the most sensible response to the question, why he wasn’t considering running for president. Was it because he was afraid that he might lose?

Colossal denials by the masters of bluster

Which of the two presidential denials would you consider more colossal or spectacular?

The curse of Adam and Eve

The recently concluded “Abuse Summit” at the Vatican convened by Pope Francis frontally addressed the problem of priestly sexual abuse -- a problem and a challenge set against the extremely difficult-to-meet standard of priestly celibacy.

How to avoid being sued for libel

The libel case that caused the arrest of Maria Ressa of Rappler has had a chilling effect on journalists who post their hard-hitting anti-government columns online, as well as folks who love to expose other people’s dirty laundry on social media.

On running for senator

How does one win in a senatorial election where 63 candidates are fighting over 12 seats? The advertising geniuses at the watering holes in Makati insist that name recognition is vital. But the harsh reality may be that money, which is also known as “the root of all evil,” is the foundation of Philippine elections. No money. No votes.

Gang rape

Senate President Tito Sotto deserves the Best Actor Award for his melodramatic declaration that he was for “withdrawing” the Senate version of the 2019 national budget and for using the 2018 reenacted budget because he was “sick and tired” of allegations of massive pork barrel insertions made by members of Congress.

‘Election na naman’

The hot topic at my favorite watering hole in Daly City is the 2019 midterm election in the Philippines, scheduled on May 13. That date is an unlucky one for the superstitious and will certainly be unlucky for most candidates, but lucky for some.

Trying to understand Trump and Duterte loyalists

I came upon an interesting article entitled, “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’ Support,” which attempts to explain the reportedly near-fanatical loyalty to President Donald Trump of his Republican voter base.

America’s Wailing Wall

In Washington DC and wherever in the US federal employees proliferate, there is a lot of weeping and wailing over a wall.

Citizen Mike de Leon

Mike de Leon is a multi-awarded cinematographer, screenplay writer and director in Philippine cinema. Among his first works as a cinematographer was Maynila, Sa Kuko ng Liwanag, directed by Lino Brocka. It was a harsh portrayal of life in the metropolis and the struggle for survival by its masses. Mike’s latest film, as director, was Citizen Jake, an indictment of Philippine politics and the octopus-like tentacles that have strangled the country and the citizenry.

The joys of Christmas and New Year in the Philippines

If you are thinking of retirement and are wondering where to spend the remaining years of your life, try spending Christmas and New Year in the Philippines. That should help you make up your mind.

Chinese Expansionism

Norberto Gonzales, national security adviser during the incumbency of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has rung alarm bells about a possible attack on the Philippines by China. This was his reaction to the co-exploration agreement signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping. Gonzales warned that the agreement is just another step in China’s covetous designs on the Philippines, characterized by its virtual occupation of Philippine territory in the South China Sea.


It seems that only President Donald Trump has a clear-cut -- or, at least, unfuzzy -- attitude towards the slaughter and reported dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist of Washington Post,allegedly on orders of Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kashoggi was last seen alive entering the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and, according to the CIA, was killed, cut up and disposed of on orders, or at least, with the full knowledge, of the crown prince.

Giving up on the impossible dream

“In union there is strength” has become such a cliche that even otherwise sensible people tend to forget its inherent wisdom.

The press — enemy of the people or of politicians?

The spectacle of President Donald Trump berating and insulting members of media at a press conference he held after the US mid-term elections was so reminiscent of a similar emasculation of a journalist by President Rodrigo Duterte several months ago.

Santo Rodrigo or Santo Muerte?

Which should we prefer: a blustering, vulgar President Rodrigo Duterte or a sleazy, barefaced liar like President Donald Trump? The ideal answer is: Neither. But if we have to make a choice, it would be Duterte. As his spokesman, Salvador Panelo, rationalizes, whenever Duterte puts his foot in his mouth, he should not be taken seriously because he’s just joking. Trump, on the other hand, is a vicious demagogue who purposely lies to confuse, mislead and delude the American public, especially his voter base.

If Pinoys could walk on water

There is a caravan of an estimated 4,000 men, women and children from Central America hiking hundreds of miles from their home countries to Mexico and from there to the United States. The “invasion” is one of the main themes of the alarmist rhetoric of President Donald Trump in his desperate effort to drive his voter base to the polls to save the Republican party from decimation in the November 6 mid-term elections.

The Battle of Manila, more accurately told

As a former screenwriter in Philippine cinema from the late Fifties to the early Eighties, the one film I wish I could have written is The Battle of Manila, presented a-la Rashomon, that classic Japanese motion picture about a killing, recounted from different perspectives.

A challenge and an opportunity for political empowerment

Ditas De Los Santos-Yamane is a Filipino-American who is running for mayor of National City in San Diego County. Yamane, who is a licensed real estate broker, is a tireless community worker. Every festival or fair of the Fil-Am community and every civic initiative that the city mounts will likely have her among the workhorses. She has also served as president of the local chamber of commerce and is chair of the city’s planning commission and committee on government affairs of the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors.

Mindanao could learn from Israel

A trip to the Holy Land had always been a key item in my bucket list (the things I need to see or do before I leave this world). But my wife had serious reservations, perceiving Israel as a country constantly in a state of war and threatened by terrorists.

Political Railroading

We’ve seen how politicians in power get the things they want and to hell with the law or due process. The arrest of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is what is called in Tagalog, santong paspasan or barasuhan. It’s also called railroading.

On tinkering with the anthem and the flag

Senate President Tito Sotto (he of Eat Bulaga fame) has proposed revising the final lines of the Philippine national anthem. He thinks the original lyrics, written in 1898 by Julian Felipe (“Aming ligaya na pag may mangaapi, ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo”) is defeatist. Instead he has proposed the lines, “...ang ipaglaban ang kalayaan mo.”

Happiness is a Filipino

With all of the bad news coming out of Manila, like typhoons, runaway inflation and Duterte lawyer Salvador Panelo, I felt a need to inject some happy thoughts into the prevailing atmosphere. So I went through my Happiness File (I have all kinds of files) and found the following gem: Happiness is a Filipino.

Filipinos on cruise ships

On a visit to Baguio a few months ago, the hotel we stayed had several young people working at the front desk, in the restaurant, and as bell hops. What struck me was the fact that they were all working for free.

How two presidents handle accusations

Presidents Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte have both been accused of criminal behavior, the former for allegedly obstructing justice and colluding with a foreign arch enemy, and the latter for allegedly enriching himself in office. But how each one has handled the accusations provides insights into the way justice is dispensed in the United States and in the Philippines.

Are the Philippines and the US DUI?

DUI is a dreaded term among vehicle drivers in the US. It means Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs.

Would Duterte dare to insult Islam?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s rantings against the Catholic Church and against God Himself, calling the Lord “stupid” for creating imperfect creatures in Adam and Eve and the snake (and, by extension, all mankind) may be forgivable if one considers his own tacit admission that he himself is imperfect, thus his kanto boy logic.

Trump declares war on allies, befriends foes

President Donald Trump has been all praise for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and has yet to say anything negative about Russia’s Vladimir Putin. On the other hand, Trump was the classic contrarian in the recently concluded G7 Summit in Canada and he has engaged in a war of words with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Art of the Lie

On CNN, the other day, one of the hosts suggested that a good sequel for President Donald Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, should be entitled, The Art of the Lie.

Global browning

The wedding of Prince Harry and bi-racial TV star, Meghan Markle, is a milestone in race relations as significant as the assumption of the...

It’s more funds in the Philippines

The Tourism Secretary is gone. Long live the new Tourism Secretary. She is Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. Puyat is as qualified as any that the Philippine...

All Kuwait on the Middle Eastern Front

No, this is not a new movie version of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic, All Quiet on the Western Front. It is an unsolicited suggestion...

Manila’s billboard jungle

My friend Greg Garcia, who is a bona fide advertising guru, has a piece of advice for the ad agencies and advertisers responsible for...

Lighting a candle in Duterte’s darkness

Several years ago, then-Speaker Jose de Venecia spoke before the Filipino community at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. Expectedly, he gave a glowing...

How Duterte compares with Trump on dictatorial tendencies

I came upon a very interesting article in Foreign Policy Magazine written by Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University,...