What in the world is happening here?


After more nuisance presidential candidates than credible ones emerged from Monday’s self-nominating process, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago announced her candidacy, while reports from Davao said the long equivocal (“I’m running, I’m not running”) Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would also be filing his. These developments add so much excitement to the campaign, but they do not make the presidential derby any less insane.

Miriam said she had a recent bout of cancer (stage four), but had completely overcome it and was back in the pink of health to wage a strenuous presidential campaign. I wish her all the best. But perhaps just because she and I are next-door neighbors and we ran a purely symbolic presidential campaign against Erap Estrada in 1998, some people ask me not so much about her reported cancer cure, as about her having been previously diagnosed of cancer stage four. Having no knowledge of it, and not having heard of her treatment regime before, I tend to ask myself the same question. Miriam has a unique sense of humor.

But I dare not beg any question. Assuming she is physically and mentally fit to run for the office, does she have the organizational capability to run a serious nationwide campaign? Both Vice President Jejomar Binay of UNA and the LP nominee Mar Roxas have been at work on their respective organizations since 2010. Even the not-so-secret handlers of the constitutionally ineligible Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares have been at it for some time now. Can Miriam’s Reform Party catch up with her much bigger and better organized competition?

And what about the money? Will the tycoons who are said to be pulling out of the imperilled Llamanzares campaign redirect their contributions to her? This appears to be one of the hopeful calculations. But it is at best a gamble.

Miriam, being an Ilonggo, with a more formidable impact upon her region, will likely draw more votes away from Roxas, who is from Capiz, than from the Batangueno-Ibanag Jojo Binay. This is an unacceptable risk to the LP standard-bearer in an honest election. Therefore, this increases the chances of a thoroughly rigged election. How will she deal with a repeat of the 2010 and 2013 elections? Or of the 1992 presidential elections, which she seems to believe until now that she had actually won?

A friendly analyst doubts that Miriam’s entry into the race could change “the predetermined results” of the “hocus PCOS,” but it would make the campaign, especially if there were presidential debates, so much more entertaining.

Still the real insanity comes from Davao. After months of threatening to run and announcing he’s not running because of health and family reasons—-his family, according to him, was completely opposed to his running—-,Duterte was finally reported to have decided to run, and may have in fact filed his certificate of candidacy after this column tried to fulfil a much earlier noon deadline.

Several weeks ago, I met Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III at the Manila Polo Club at Joey Leviste’s book launch of his anthology on Lee Kuan Yew, and discussed the real story on “Digong.” This was after Duterte had said he was not running, and I wanted to hear from Sonny the real score. Sonny is Duterte’s old friend and one of his original financial backers. He confirmed everything I had heard till then, and threw in one story to prove the mayor wasn’t running.

He said that several days ago he had asked a friend to donate to Duterte’s campaign, and his friend said Duterte could call anytime and he would hand over his donation. Sonny reported this to Duterte, but the mayor reportedly told him not to bother the potential donor anymore because he wasn’t running.

After ignoring public pressure from certain groups—-including one sizeable rally at Rizal Park—-Duterte reportedly finally caved in after his daughter Sarah, who had reportedly been vehemently against his running, shaved her head bald to compel him to run. This was the report I received yesterday from friends in Davao.

I have never met Sarah, who reportedly wants to replace her father as mayor. But if I had the chance to talk her out of it, I would probably have advised her to consider the less costly example of Lady Godiva, the 11th century noblewoman who rode a horse through the market square covered only by her long tresses, to compel her husband, the Lord of Coventry, to lessen the tax burden on his subjects. Sarah would have simply let her hair down, instead of having it shaven altogether. It might have created bigger headlines than the Playgirls’ sexy dancing at the LP’s Laguna meeting.

In a more intense setting, if the lady were Buddhist, some people might have suggested that she turn herself into a torch, as some women did during the time of Madame Nhu in Vietnam, just to drive home a point. But this is alien to our culture. The future mayor of Davao needs to become the mayor of Davao.

But didn’t poor Sarah actually immolate herself just by shaving her head? Did she not throw herself politically into a burning pit where utter madness reigns? It is not Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, all right, but it is a burning pit nonetheless. Some Davaoenos may swoon over a bald lady city chief executive, but wouldn’t a good number of them suspect the lady has cracked up, and may no longer be fit for the office she has previously held?

Of course the bigger problem belongs to her father, the good mayor. Now that he has decided to run for president (if indeed he has), the nation will be looking at him and listening to him ever more closely, if only to see if he is bringing anything substantial into the presidential race, aside from his undisguised threat to provide a final solution to every problem that comes along, which has so impressed the impressionable.

He has to come down from his perch, and tell all those who have been awed by his previous declarations (that he would bring in a federal system and a parliamentary government) that no president can do this even with the best of intentions, simply because it is not within his power. These are fundamental changes that require a rewriting of the Constitution, and this can be done only at the instance of Congress and the Filipino people, and never by the president, whatever support he has won from the people.

Duterte must promise the voters, if he must promise them anything at all, only what he has the power to do under the Constitution. He must tell the voters to expect from him or from anybody else only that which is constitutionally doable. As well as that, he will have to make sure that whatever policies or programs he will have to offer to our long suffering people will be at least worth the loss of Sarah’s hair.

Traveler’s woes. Cebu Pacific sucks, Zest Air is a surprise

Ever since I wrote in this space about my wretched experience with Cebu Pacific, and stopped flying CebuPac, I have been bombarded with all sorts of horror stories about that airline. People like BizNews Asia publisher Tony Lopez have shared with me their own experiences which I intend to put together in a full-length article soon… Meanwhile, on my last trip to Cebu a week ago, I took Air Asia Zest from the old domestic airport (Terminal 4), and surprise of surprises, the airport was clean and well-lit, the crew was efficient and hospitable, the captain spoke very good English and kept the passengers updated on the flight all throughout, and we landed in Cebu 36 minutes ahead of schedule. It was a kind of culture shock, having gotten so used to delayed departures and arrivals.

But that’s all the good news for now. The nightmare continues. A good friend who flew Philippine Airlines with his wife from Manila to New York on August 20 had a nearly unbearable experience. This was PR 126, which left Manila at 11:45 pm. Two hours before landing in Vancouver for its only technical stop, the captain announced having received a report from the Vancouver airport that a bomb had been planted on board the plane and that it was necessary for the crew to examine every hand-carried luggage of the passengers. And they did. It was the most awful display of incompetence my friend ever saw in his whole life. The panic was written all over the faces not only of the women and children on board. Upon inquiry, my friend was told that the captain had cleared his “procedure” with Mr. Bautista, the PAL president in Manila.

This was really unheard of. In the first 747 emergency landing in history, which I had earlier written about, the captain brought the aircraft to the ground in Bangor, Maine in three minutes without any announcement. Only after the plane had touched the ground and come to a full stop did the captain say, “This is an emergency, start evacuation.” My wife and I were on that plane. Only eight hours later, when a new Panam 747 ferried all of us to New York, did we learn that the pilot had received a call in midair saying a bomb had been planted on board and that it was supposed to go off in ten minutes. The captain and the crew handled the situation with such professional competence that there was no panic whatsoever among the passengers.

On another occasion, when I was in the Cabinet, my wife and I were invited by the Indonesian ambassador to join him in a fashion show featuring the world-famous Indonesian batik designer Irwan Tirta. As the show was about to begin, the organizers received a telephoned message saying a bomb had been planted under the ramp. The message was passed on to me, and I quickly shared it with the ambassador, who was the host. But the ambassador said I was the highest Philippine official present, so I had to assume responsibility for clearing up the place.

My wife was at the other end of the stage, and I could not even tell her to get out. So I grabbed the microphone, and asked the audience politely but firmly to vacate the room as orderly and as quickly as possible to allow us “to make certain adjustments with the stage.” The crowd did as requested, the anti-bomb squad arrived and swept the place. No bomb was found, but there was no panic.

The PAL incident is rather unprecedented. The emotional injury suffered by the passenger is heard to ascertain, but the captain and the PAL president who authorized his unusual conduct should be made to account for it.



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  1. After seeing so many candidates who filed their interest to be President says a lot. Our countrymen is Dissatisfied with the current administration. All this Presidential candidates want BSAquino and Roxas totally out of government.

    If only the Opposition parties can see eye to eye and put all their efforts together as 1 Strong opposition against the LP party , They can win this election with a Stronger Voice.
    This would be the best way to defeat BSAquino and Roxas and to prevent them from cheating this election! BSAquino and his cohorts should be made accountable for the current problems they created (DAP/MRT/BBL/Massacre 44 SAF ).

    Grace Poe L. should give way and endorse to the stronger opposition leader who can beat the LPParty who is already trying to bring her down. She should reserve her energy& season herself for the next 2022 presidency and by that time her Filipino citizenship will be legitimate.

    Binay has a strong core group and has shown fortitude but would need all the support of other opposition parties to make sure that the black propaganda being lodged at him will not succeed. We are sick and tired of hearing the overpricing of a building while the significant issues of the PDAF/DAP/MASSACRE OF 44 SAF/MRT/ BBL /SELECTIVE JUSTICE ETC….is being shoved under the rug.

    Miriam Santiago is not healthy enough to be President. Her health cannot be taken for granted, she will just be taken advantaged by her VP.

    A Coalition of all the Opposition party against this administration is the best way to take out the current government whose “daang matuwid” is simply not true!

  2. I am still confused why a lot of filipinos still file their candidacy when their chances to win is next to impossible (suntok sa buwan) what old folk say. Are filipinos really out of their mind.

  3. Is it against the law to make all candidates undergo lie detector test to ensure that their intentions is public service or just to commit graft and corruption. I think that’s the only best solution to filter candidates. Only in the Philippines that Presidential candidates numbered in the 50’s and senatorial candidates are in the 100’s.

  4. a nuisance candidate(s) is one who has been in political power for almost thirty years already and still want to continue by bringing all the rest of his children to occupy government positions for the next century!

  5. Today, as the last day for filing of COC for 2016 Presidential election closely ends, many of Mayor Duterte SOLID (active people who impart resources for his campaign) and ANTICIPATING (watching, waiting, and following developments) supporters are in the verged of hope-grip… thinking and wondering why the Mayor ignited their long dead hope for Philippine development by sending messages that enveloped freedom from oppression, just and humane society, personal, professional and societal development.. and many things that reborn their people-faith. Why? WHY? and for what? The feeling of anticipating defeat for this very day is tantamount with death.

    Mayor, today we will know your CHOICE and the TRUTH. There are only two ends actually. To respond to the call of those people who again
    embraced hope for this country and its citizens… or to utterly proved
    to us that indeed this country is just like a drop of mist in dawn,
    visible in the dark but expected to just fade away when the sun shines

  6. mahiwagang tao on

    Duterte was pressured to back out because of a case that maybe filed… according to some sources …the LP has the judicial confession of the alleged davao death squad member that would implicate duterte to a number of extra judicial killings… if he continue to run for president. Murder ang case.. no bail..So back out si Digong.The remaining contenders will be Binay, Poe and Santiago. Next move of LP is …that case will not be filed if Duterte will support roxas in davao. Digong will have to keep his mouth shout or support roxas..With so many cases against binay maybe.. by the end of December binay would be nearing the state of a political vegetable….. … poe faces disqualification.. she will be later disqualified.. it would be roxas vs. santiago. LP would have an easy fight with santiago… with just a campaign message.. she is dying….. a nice game plan.and a very shrewd one.. I will still vote for santiago…

    • wow your story stands well with your pen name “mahiwagang tao” ! You might make some money if you sell it on Binay’s or Grace Poe camps. he he

  7. Thank you, Mr. Tatad. I am just curious what that PAL flight crew would have done have they found a bomb?

    • Stewardess will say, “eeekkkk, it’s the bomb”. Steward will argue, “No, it’s grenade”. Curious passengers will declare “it’s fire cracker”. A smart guy shouts out loud, “It’s woodpecker from space”. Then everybody sings in chorus, “eeeewwwww…..” The captain annoyed by loud singing will announce, “Passengers get back to your seat and fasten seat belt, crew in landing position. We’ll soon be landing, bomb or woodpecker doesn’t matter”.

  8. This happened to me on landing in Manila in 1983. The plane landed and stopped at the end of the runway. All the baggage was unloaded by security. We sat on the plane for almost an hour then filed off and hand carry luggage was checked, then we were bused to the terminal. No explanation as to why.
    The next day I read in the paper that “The passengers spent the last half of the flight in fear because of a bomb threat.” After thirty+ years the incompetence in this country still defines the Philippines.

  9. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    Surely, Marcos will campaign for Santiago for the Solid North votes. And if this happens, some of the Ilokano votes of Binay will be taken away from him. Duterte will campaign for Roxas (being a Visayan) in Mindanao. The result: Roxas will win the presidential elections. Sorry for Poe. The Filipino electorate knows that Poe only took advantage of FPJ’s popularity to be ahead of the surveys and in the end the voters will realize that Poe has only 2 years experience as a senator and is using her last name Poe in her candidacy.

  10. Until some White Knight comes to rescue the airline from a bumbling cacique who still prefers to run the show like his sari sari store, PAL will continue to display their incompetence and inanity. Wasn’t it bought back from professional care only because the full blown ego of the comprador was piqued?

  11. Find a bomb thirty five thousand feet in the air? Don’t you think this is insane? The PAL president is one of a kind huh?

  12. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    There are a lot more horrible experiences of our kababayans regarding PAL and CebuPac flights. These are no surprises since what else is new about Sino/Filipino business customer services. The rating (0-10 rating ; 10 being the highest) for these Chino/Filipino businesses will always be 2. Chino/Filipino businesses are always very poor in customer service because they always assume that Filipino customers are SHY, NO BALLS to complain, TIMID, walang pakialam, can bribe CA justices and judges. These PAL and CebuPac and other Chinese businesses in the Philippines are always for PROFIT disregarding the interest of the Filipinos. Deport all these Chinese to mainland China with the Binays.