Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Re-post From Christine O. Avendano And Norman Bordadora Of Philippine Daily Inquirer

Aquino: Question is simple, can we trust Mr. Corona?

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President Benigno Aquino III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Attending the first of a series of events to mark the 26th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, President Aquino said Thursday that Chief Justice Renato Corona’s failure to fully declare his multimillion-peso bank deposits was sufficient basis to remove him from his post.

The President wondered why there was still disbelief that Corona had committed an impeachable offense when he declared bank accounts worth only P3.5 million in his 2010 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) despite evidence presented at his impeachment trial showing his peso deposits then at P31.5 million.

In a speech delivered in Filipino at a “town hall meeting” with students from various universities and colleges at La Consolacion College near MalacaƱang, Aquino expressed frustration over the lengthy legal discussions in the impeachment trial that, he said, appeared to be aimed at confusing the public and causing it to lose interest in the proceedings.

“Would Juan de la Cruz allow himself to be left out of this process? Are we going to allow only a few to decide for all of us?” Aquino said.

“The question in this trial is rather simple: Can we still trust Mr. Corona? We can answer that with the truth coming out during the trial,” he said.

In the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, the President said he would have a hard time implementing reforms in the judiciary should the impeachment court favor Corona.

To the question of what will happen to his campaign to make corrupt public officials accountable if the court issues a verdict of acquittal, Aquino said: “Extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

Same standards

A number of senators have expressed doubt that Corona’s misdeclarations in his SALNs constituted a high crime—one of several grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

The President said Corona should be held up to the same standards that caused court interpreter Delsa Flores to lose her job and other benefits in 1997 after failing to declare ownership of a stall in a public market.

“For a court interpreter, that is the standard. How much is the rent for a stall in the market? For the Chief Justice, should the standard be different?” Aquino said, adding: “If Mrs. Flores lost her job, what do you think should be the verdict on Mr. Corona? Do we even have to ask whether what he did was an impeachable offense?”

“If you were Delsa Flores, what would you feel if you learn that there’s a person who withheld a bigger amount in his SALN?”

The President said the SALN was not mere scratch paper but a document sworn to by every public official, as provided for in Article 11, Section 17 of the Constitution.

He said the Constitution also directs public officials to have their SALNs disclosed to the public.

“As the truth comes out, the reasons why Mr. Corona was hiding his SALNs in a vault are becoming clear,” the President said. “It’s clearer than the light of day. Mr. Corona, the declaration you swore to isn’t consistent with what has been discovered to be your assets. In any school in the world, P3.5 million does not equal P31.5 million.”

‘Cover-up for GMA corruption’

Aquino expressed mock gratitude for Corona for the discrepancies in his SALNs, saying the inconsistencies were drawing attention to the latter’s unexplained wealth.

He also thanked lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas for seeking the disclosure of Corona’s monthly balances when the impeachment court had just asked for the Chief Justice’s yearend balances.

The President expressed hope that Corona and his lawyers would see the light, but said he doubted that this would happen soon.

“If you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. Let me ask you this. Is this the way a person who has nothing to fear behaves? It’s already difficult to look at his SALNs and until now, he continues to hide his dollar accounts,” the President said.

“He said he would come out with the documents in due time. With due respect, Mr. Corona, many years have passed since you submitted SALNs that beg a lot of questions. When is due time? It seems that your time is long overdue,” the President said.

Aquino also said then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Corona to the Supreme Court “to cover up for her corruption.”

“Didn’t all of this start only after you almost succeeded in allowing Mrs. Arroyo to flee?” he said, referring to the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on the travel restrictions on the former President, which almost gave her “a chance to hide.”

‘Remove this branding’

In explaining the need for Corona’s conviction, the President cited rulings made by certain courts that, he said, derailed the government’s reform agenda.

One ruling he cited was the 20-day TRO issued recently by a Manila Regional Trial Court on the results of the Department of Justice’s investigation of the former National Bureau of Investigation chief Magtanggol Gatdula, who was sacked in connection with the kidnapping of a Japanese national by NBI agents last year.

“There is an accusation that the NBI kidnapped a person. So you need to investigate it in order to bring back the credibility of the NBI as an institution. But the court now says that the DOJ cannot act on the result of its investigation,” he said in a frustrated tone.

In a statement that elicited applause, he said: “Some would say ‘Only in the Philippines.’ But … I want us to remove this kind of branding.”

‘Wimpy dictator’

The President also said he had been at the receiving end of many criticisms—that he was “a spoiled brat,” “immature,” “a wimp,” and now “a wimpy dictator.”

But even with these criticisms, he said, he wanted the next generation to not undergo what his generation had experienced.

Later in a TV interview, Aquino indicated satisfaction with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s handling of the impeachment trial.

“He is trying to be extremely fair to all sides,” he said of Enrile, noting that the latter was, after all, a veteran lawyer.

The President also defended the performance of the House prosecution, saying the lawmakers’ not being practicing lawyers was the reason they were not as “polished” as the defense.

Not interference

Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Teofisto Guingona III, both allied with the President, said his criticism of the Chief Justice did not amount to interference in the impeachment trial.

“I don’t know how he is interfering. All I know is they’re [both] commenting, but if we are not affected by the commentaries, these have no value,” Pimentel said in Filipino.

“The challenge is for us [senator-judges] not to be affected by the commentaries of other people. We would have to now make our own decision based on the evidence,” he said.

Asked about the propriety of the President continuously attacking Corona and discussing the merits of the case in public, Pimentel said: “If somebody files a motion, then we will take it up. But no one seems to be affected that much…”

Guingona, a member of Aquino’s Liberal Party, said the President’s attacks had a “substantial difference” from the allegation by Corona’s lawyers that the Palace was trying to bribe senators.

Last Sunday, defense lawyers claimed that the offer was P100 million in “soft projects” in exchange for a senator’s vote against the TRO on Corona’s dollar accounts.

But Pimentel said both the defense and the prosecution should be sanctioned. He noted that prosecutors were now under fire for submitting to the Senate purportedly fake documents on Corona’s bank records.

“My attitude now is that both sides should be punished,” Pimentel said.

Tit for tat

In a press conference, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said even the Chief Justice had been criticizing the President and the prosecutors.

Belmonte said that the impeachment trial being a political process, even the senators and the defense had become fair game for criticism.

“And, of course, Corona should not be organizing rallies and speeches,” the Speaker said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said there was nothing wrong with anyone discussing issues involving Corona.

Re-posted From Christine O. Avendano And Norman Bordadora of Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Re-post From Tarra Quismundo of Philippine Daily Inquirer

Let the ‘fun’ begin: Netizens spoof, bash new tourism slogan

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'MORE FUN' TURNS FUNNY. Filipino humor overwhelms Facebook and other social networking sites as netizens parody the new tourism slogan. But it’s good news for Philippine tourism, says DOT.

Netizens did have fun either defending or (nit)picking apart the country’s newest tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

Filipino humor quickly found a new target and went viral over the catchphrase, giving it different spins which may or may not help the cause of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.

Ideas fresh or farcical quickly sprouted on Facebook and Twitter pages: One user came up with a “poster” showing two men in a sing-along showdown and captioned “Death by ‘My Way’: It’s More Fun…” It was a reference to that joke about the Frank Sinatra classic being the usual fuse of videoke bar violence in these parts.

Another user thought “Watering the Plants” would also be a source of fun worth promoting in the Philippines, posting a photo of a boy urinating against a wall. The image was apparently an expression of disgust over locals relieving themselves in public.

Another mock “fun” poster featured a unique Philippine “water sport,” showing people scampering away from giant, crashing waves on Manila Bay at the height of a storm.

One gave a lighter spin to the notorious traffic jams in Metro Manila, posting a photo of a traffic enforcer dressed as Santa Claus.

Others thought that the “fun” slogan should also apply to the country’s rambunctious and often controversial elections, as well as to the coming impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Still, there were also well-meaning suggestions: Have you tried local pastries like “fun de sal” and “fun de coco”?

Mere copy?

Some users weighed in on the observation that the new slogan was not a Filipino original but supposedly a mere copy of Switzerland’s motto in the 1950s.

Mark Manuel @mimattictheory) tweeted: “#itsmorefuninthephilippines, absolutely! But stealing one country’s tourism slogan is not cool!”

Another Twitter user, Sapphire Ong (@sappong), said that while the new slogan was catchy, “it sounded so much better when Switzerland used it in 1951.”

Other Twitter users thought the copycat issue should be given a rest. “I don’t care if there’s ‘It’s more fun in Switzerland.’ For me it’s way more fun in the Philippines!” said Marco Paulo (@countocram).

“Come on! Give me a break! Switzerland 1951? Nega people, stop it. I still say #itsmorefuninthePhilippines!” said Mikaela Lagdameo (@mikaelamartinez).

Part of DOT plan

The Department of Tourism is not actually complaining about all that cyber-buzz being generated by its new pickup line.

That the new slogan had gone viral within just hours of its launch on Friday could only mean good news for Philippine tourism, said Assistant Tourism Secretary Benito Bengzon.

“This is really part of our strategy, to let it go viral. It has been trending, a very good indication of the kind of interest we are generating in social networks,” Bengzon told the Inquirer on the phone on Saturday.

“We see the 25 million or so Facebook and Twitter users as our strength in the Philippines. This is something we could use to convey our message,” Bengzon said.

Positive voice

Jimenez himself has used his Twitter account to defend the new slogan, saying it was merely a coincidence that it echoed Switzerland’s old come-on—and that nobody has a copyright to fun.

“Tourism is successful in Thailand because their positive voice is louder than their negative voice,” the secretary added.

The early criticisms were expected, but the campaign’s success would be gauged by what foreign tourists would think of the slogan, Bengzon said.

“I think what people have to realize is that the application of this campaign is overseas. We will see how the Japanese react to it, how Koreans or Americans react to it,” he said.


The new slogan may not be bombastic but it tells the truth about the Philippines, according to Jaime Cura, a former vice president of the Tourism Congress.

“I think it is very simple, easy to understand and easy to recall. It’s an honest statement. It does not promise something that we don’t have,” Cura said in an interview.

He noted that Filipinos could be fun-loving “even to a fault” and that many foreigners who had visited the country always remember their happy experiences.

“My foreign friends tell us when they say goodbye that they had so much fun during their stay. So instead of copying other countries with their (one-word) tag lines, we should focus on this aspect that has already been proven,” Cura said.

Re-posted From Tarra Quismundo of Philippine Dailt Inquirer


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