A COMPANY that has neither track record in the gaming business nor proven financial capability to back up a multibillion-peso enterprise is poised to become the newest investor in the ambitious “Tourism City” project of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).
But what Bloombury Investments Ltd. lacks in these top two criteria for investors in the Pagcor project, it more than makes up for in terms of political connections, based on records of the state-run corporation itself, as well as information from those privy to the deals.
BARELY A week left in the run-up to the 2007 midterm polls, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. is still trying to convince people that the May 14 elections will be credible and honest. He probably hoped it would be peaceful, too, but election-related violence has claimed the lives of close to a hundred people so far, including a Cebu mayoral candidate shot dead right in front of the Comelec’s provincial office.
THE PRESENT crisis facing the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo underlines the necessity for far-ranging changes in our political and electoral systems. It also poses both a threat and opportunity as far as these reforms are concerned. As such, careful handling is needed to neutralize the threats and seize the opportunities.
THE GHOSTS of the last elections haunt Lanao del Sur and they refuse to rest. They will not go away. They flit about, seeking resolution. So when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, the commander of the Marine brigade stationed in the province during the last election, testified in the Senate in September, saying that he had been mysteriously relieved from his post two clays after the voting, the ghosts were roused again. Days after the Senate hearing, Gudani and one of his officers, Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan, were sent to court martial for refusing to heed their superiors’ orders not to testily. The ghosts, having been roused, are now rattling even more noisily than ever before.
IN THE May 2004 elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained a campaign organization so elaborate it even included a group dubbed “Special Ops,” an infamous abbreviation for “special operations” that many equate with “dirty tricks,” or cruder still, poll cheating.
PITY party-list organizations. Although Republic Act 7941 reserves 20 percent of House seats for these groups, which are supposed to be from marginalized sectors whose interests are not represented in Congress, the reality is that it is difficult for them to win votes. That’s because Filipinos are still mostly uninformed about the party-list process and the Commission on Elections has done nothing in terms of a voter-awareness campaign to remedy the situation.
VIRGILIO Garcillano will go down in history as the election official whose wiretapped conversations mortally wounded a president. He disappeared from public view in the second week of June, as the controversy over the wiretaps heated up, and many may have a hard time recalling what he looks like. Yet his raspy voice, distinctive lisp, and thick Visayan accent are now embedded in the audio memory of millions of Filipinos who have listened to the “Garci” tapes.
TO DESTROY an institution like the Commission on Elections (Comelec), you must first fill it up with handpicked commissioners with questionable credentials and even more dubious impartiality. Then, let them run the constitutional body as if they were ruling over personal fiefdoms. This would then reduce middle-level bureaucrats to mere vassals doing — or forced to do — their every bidding, including perhaps, as the taped conversations involving President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano suggest, rigging the elections in their political benefactor’s favor.
TODAY the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stands on the edge of the abyss. Will she fall or can she pull back from the brink?
This crisis is not only the most serious in her four-year presidency, it challenges the viability of Philippine democracy as well.
UNTIL last month, the heavens seemed to have favored Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The economy was picking up, the stock market was trading briskly, and Congress had just passed a new tax measure. For sure, the budget deficit and rising oil prices were something to worry about. At the same time, the opposition seemed bent on raking the jueteng muck. But all these were part of life — and politics — as usual.
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