Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't be fooled

The national elections is just 44 days away.  

I've talked to some staff members in the hospital about the candidates whom they plan to vote for.  Some have decided but a great majority is still confused, although most of them have narrowed down their choices to two candidates.

As my way of helping those voters who are still undecided, I will be posting on this blog, articles  and videos about the candidates, most of them aspiring for national positions. I will do my best to carefully choose the articles which I will feature and I will make sure that these articles are worth spending your precious time.  The main goal is to help the undecided  decide and and finally choose the candidate who who will earn their vote.

Since aside from chismis, forgetfulness is already becoming a Filipino culture, the goal of this blog is to remind you, readers and voters, to cast  your votes wisely.  I will remind readers and voters that some politicians have occupied positions in the government for years and years but did not have any significant achievement to improve the lives of Filipinos.  Some politicians woe voters so they can fatten their bank accounts and their asses when they occupy positions in the government.  

So voters, here is your first reminder.  Don't be fooled.

Here's my first serving for you, articles from two of the few columnists whom I admire most.   One is a woman who almost became my professor in college, had I decided to turn my back on my ambition to become a doctor and become an economist instead.  The second one is one of the persons I wish to meet.  In one of his articles before, he wrote that he is friends with and admires my paternal grand uncle, a chess master.  I hope to meet this writer someday and have my picture taken with him.  

They are very credible and seasoned columnists and these featured articles, which are both from their columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, truly deserve your consideration.  After reading, you should be able to rule out one candidate from your list.  (By the way, I tried to edit the font size a thousand times and it still does not change to normal size.  I'm sorry for the inconvenience.  My laptop, Max, seems to have a mind of its own.)

Get Real : Awesome (claims)
By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 27, 2010

AN ORGANIZATION I BELONG TO, THE Movement for Good Governance (MGG), has, as one of its objectives, raising the level of discussion and quality of information during the election campaign, so that the information that voters obtain on candidates are not just those provided by the candidates themselves (which are naturally going to be self-serving) but have been subjected to scrutiny for either feasibility (as in their platforms, which require the assessment of experts) or authenticity (in regard to their claims, which require investigation and drudgework). That way, the voter will be in a much better position to choose their leaders for the next three or six years.

Manny Pangilinan's TV5 has picked up on MGG's work and will jointly sponsor a five-part special series that will in effect showcase the results of this scrutiny. And since Sen. Manny Villar's TV and radio ads far outnumber the ads of his opponents, they provide much more grist for an investigator/evaluator's mill.

Take the ad, for example, which roughly translated goes something like this: "Have you experienced sleeping on a short bench in the market? Or the death of a brother because you had no money for medicine/proper health care, so you were helpless? Well, I, too, have experienced all that. Which is why, when God blessed me with a good life, it became my vow to help those who have nothing. If I really wanted to get richer, I would just go back to being a businessman. If I could get out of poverty, I can also do it for you. This is my vow: to end poverty." The TV ads are highlighted by a 1962 picture of the young Manny and his younger brother Danny-the year that Danny died-as well as a Villar family picture.

The message being conveyed is simple and powerful: he was dirt poor, but God got him out of poverty; and he has vowed to do the same for others. And he is sincere: he is not running for president to make money-because if he only wanted to get richer, all he needed to do was go back to being a businessman. It is indeed a great ad. One viewer's reaction was: Awesome.

Awesome, indeed. Because documents sent to me turn those assertions on their head, so that the only thing accurate about the ad may be the family pictures.

First there is the matter of the copy of a death certificate of Daniel Bamba Villar indicated as issued by the NSO. According to that document, Daniel Bamba Villar, son of Manuel Villar and Curita Bamba, address xx (number illegible) Bernardo Street, North Balut, Navotas, died at the Far Eastern University Hospital on Oct. 13, 1962, at the age of three years and eight months, of cardio-respiratory failure due to leukemia (there is something about red cells, but the writing again is illegible), after a 13-day hospital stay. In the space for informant, the signatory is Manuel Villar, father.

Now, that Daniel Villar was brought to a private hospital-FEUH had the same reputation then as Makati Medical or Manila Doctors or St Luke's would have now-rather than, say, a government hospital like the Philippine General Hospital, or San Lazaro, does not necessarily disprove the Villar ad contention that his family was poor. It is not unusual for families, however poor, to do what is necessary in order to secure the best care for their children, and damn the consequences. That it was Funeraria Paz (one of the two top funeral parlors at that time), as indicated on the same death certificate, that took care of the funeral arrangements, again does not necessarily contradict the "I was poor" contention, for the same reason.

But then, Villar does not just say in the ad that his family was poor. He said his brother died because there was no money for medicine or medical care. That appears to be clearly contradicted by the certificate.

Moreover, there is the matter of the address provided by Villar senior: apparently, from pictures and on-site investigation, Bernardo Street in North Balut is part of San Rafael Village, a gated community, equivalent at that time to FilAm Homes in Quezon City. A copy of the Transfer Certificate of Title for the property-which is a 560-square-meter lot-has also been provided. Now anyone who can afford to buy a 560-square-meter lot (the TCT shows that Villar senior borrowed P16,000 from the GSIS for the release of the title-which at current prices is roughly equivalent to P1.266 million) is not exactly consistent with being dirt poor.

Finally, there is the matter of Senator Villar's assertion that if he just wanted to get richer, all he needed to do was get back to being a businessman. Again, the documentary evidence: his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for 1992-the first year he joined government as a congressman-showed that his net worth was P75 million. After nine years of being a congressman, and eight years of being a senator, his most recent SALN (2008) shows a net worth of P1.047 billion. Being in public office surely has paid off for him.

There's The Rub : And still, ‘mahirap’
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 30, 2010

MANUEL VILLAR HAD A MOST INTERESTING answer to the pile of evidence that they were never poor and that his kid brother did not die because they were poor.

His brother, he said, was in fact rushed to FEU because it was an emergency, and nobody thinks about expense during an emergency. But he was taken in as a charity patient. He died in any case because they could not afford the cost of his treatment. Their house in Tondo was so small all nine of them slept side by side on a single mat under a single mosquito net. That was what made his father take out a loan from the GSIS to buy the property in San Rafael payable in 20-25 years.

Even if these were true, and they can be easily disproven (except for the part where they all slept on a single mat, which only they can say), none of it makes things better, it makes them worse. They speak of values, or scale of priorities, or sense of proportion that do not commend him for president.

At the very least, why the utter powerlessness in the face of getting a brother cured, or at least in getting treatment for him, and the sudden powerfulness in the face of getting a house built? If you can secure a loan for a house payable in 20-25 years, why can’t you secure a loan for hospitalization payable in a lifetime? What kind of sense of values or scale of priorities is that?

The loan from the GSIS is already a dead giveaway. If you’re poor, you have no access to institutions like the GSIS. Access is one of the definitions of not-poor. Certainly access to government institutions is not a feature to be found among the dirt poor, which is how the bearded, motorcycle-riding, pistol-toting, “5-6” loan shark became a feature of the landscape. Even if you did manage to apply to the GSIS, the chances even then of getting a housing loan from it if you’re really dirt poor are, well, about the same chances as that story that Manny Villar really came from poor is true.

This thing particularly resonates with me because I know whereof he speaks. I do come from poor. We rented a tiny place in Naga City for P15 a month, and its ceiling was so low the American Jesuit who visited us had to stoop at the doorway to get in. We slept on a single mat under a single mosquito net, which was fine in the rain but not altogether pleasant in summer, notwithstanding that the temperature in the province, being smog-free, tended to fall drastically at night.

When my younger brother got polio, we all rushed to Manila to get him cured. We had nothing to sell, which is why I understand the full meaning of that word “proletarian,” whose fundamental condition is having no property. At least the Villars had their house in Tondo which they could have sold if it came to that. By dint of my father borrowing from kin and friend and taking advances on his pay, and by dint of him vowing as well to make a novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for whatever help she could give, my brother recovered. Not completely, he still suffers from a limp, but he recovered. My father honored the vow he made to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, completely wholly despite the cure being arguably partial (he was not one to bargain with Providence) dragging me along every Wednesday late afternoon to the Naga Cathedral (“Why me?”) for it.

It’s called resolve, it’s called resourcefulness, it’s called dedication.

A friend not quite incidentally texted me the other day to say, “How can you be poor and study in the Ateneo de Manila?” In my case, simple. I did not pay a single centavo for it, a whole slew of scholarships did. In fact I not only did not pay a single centavo for it, I brought home a few pesos saved from my allowance by dint of eating bread with marmalade as palaman for supper. What can I say? I was brilliant then as I am now. Which allowed me to escape a lifetime of poverty, in more ways than one: I not only escaped the crushing physical poverty of want, I escaped the even more crushing spiritual poverty of need. That is the need for more and more money, whatever it takes, which is a far more impoverished state than the Grapes-of-Wrath kind.

Which brings me to the Pandora’s Box Villar has opened by his insistence on waging a campaign based on his claims of knowing the poor. Because even if you grant that he was so, then all he did was to escape the poverty of want by embracing the poverty of need. The need to accumulate more and more lands and titles and money than you can possibly use in a hundred lifetimes.

In my time, many of the brilliant poor, who were scholars in various universities, saw where they came from and decided they would devote themselves not just to rescuing themselves from that plight but to rescuing others from that plight. The teeming others stuck like flies in a flytrap to untold misery. They became activists.

Today, that is seen in the heroism of someone like Efren Peñaflorida who came from poor but decided not to become rich in ways Villar will understand but to give back to the poor and become rich in ways Villar won’t. There he is, opening the minds of the poor in narrow alleyways and spacious cemeteries with his kareton classroom.

All Villar did was, well, the same thing Lucio Tan did, and Lucio Tan has a far more valid claim to having once been poor, having true bote-dyaryo origins. You do not become a billionaire by sympathizing with the poor, you become a billionaire by screwing the poor. By selling cigarettes as a cancerous crony, by resorting to diversions, extensions and outright dispossession of others long before you become a senator. Weren’t the activists who are now with him charging him not too long ago with land-grabbing?

Villar wasn’t just mahirap once, he remains mahirap today. So in ways that go beyond the pedestrian meaning of poor.


8 Ways to take care of our mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

          During this era of the COVID Pandemic, it would be easy to overlook our mental health which is essential in order for us to h...