Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Furious Palace gets back at FOCAP

I learned this morning that members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) were barred from joining President Arroyo's news conference, the first in almost two months now.

Well, FOCAP should not be surprised. When some members of the so-called Hyatt 10 guested at a FOCAP forum some days back, the Palace was furious, with some complaining how could FOCAP devote one whole forum for the mutineers and not even include some factotum from the administration to rebut them right there and then?

It's a pity that Malacanang had to resort to this kind of thing in dealing with the press. And it's baffling because they have people inside, like Bobi Tiglao, a former correspondent of a foreign magazine, who should know better.

By banning FOCAP members, and by screening those who can ask the President some questions (which were written in advance, by the way), what did Malacanang hope to accomplish?

I am sometimes stunned by the stupidity of those in power.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bobi's bogey

Rigoberto "Bobi" Tiglao, chief of Arroyo's Presidential Management Staff, must really hate Joma Sison and his communist ilk. I was told that in gatherings and media interviews, Tiglao would rail against Joma and his communist friends in such groups as Bayan and Bayan Muna, convinced that they are the ones behind the organized campaign against his president.

Bobi was himself a former activist (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) so he should know whereof he speaks. But isn't he giving too much credit to these ideological blowhards?

I wonder what would Tiglao say had Popoy Lagman lived. Tiglao adored Lagman; he once called him a "people power visionary." Lagman, I'm sure, would have joined the calls for Tiglao's boss to resign.

Those Philhealth cards

You may have heard that President Arroyo will soon decide to continue giving out those Philhealth cards that she distributed during the campaign. If you recall, those cards recently expired (they're just good for a year) and many of the beneficiaries complained because that was about the only good thing that happened to many poor Filipinos during the campaign.

Of course, the decision by Malacanang to continue putting money on the Philhealth card scheme has something to do with the political storm she's facing, particularly in Metro Manila where more and more Filipinos are not exactly fond of her. The Philhealth card may calm them down.

But at the same time, some people in the administration are actually convince that giving out Philhealth cards would have a positive impact on the health-care indsutry. These cards, according to one congressman close to Arroyo, could revitalize private hospitals.

That's fine, except for one thing: It's not sustainable because the government does not have deep pockets. Arroyo's people, of course, don't want to accept that fact because they're willing to try everything at this point just to ensure her political survival.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Boncodin will go back to Arroyo's arms

I have it on good authority that Emilia Boncodin, the former budget secretary, regretted her decision to resign on July 8, along with 9 other cabinet officials. She has told friends that resigning was a "lapse in judgment."

But more than her mea culpa, Boncodin, according to a very reliable source, is, in a way, going back to the arms of the Arroyo administration. She will be a consultant at the budget department, helping Romulo Neri, the former NEDA who now heads the department.

Another ex-Arroyo official who is said to be banging his head against the wall for joining the Hyatt revolt is Guillermo Parayno, the former head of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Makes you wonder what these supposedly intelligent people were thinking when they resigned. Were they misinformed? Were they duped? Did they over-estimate the impact of their action, which they hoped would rattle the Arroyo administration enough for it to disintegrate?

Or was it simply hubris?

The ice woman

I had a chat recently with one of the Arroyo cabinet members who resigned last July 8. The ex-secretary was upset that many of those who joined Arroyo's cabinet in 2001, including her, bought the president's promises of good and credible governance. The ex-secretary was not only disappointed that Arroyo did not fulfill her promise. The president, who can be emotionally aloof, resisted efforts by her people, including cabinet secretaries and advisers, to engage her emotionally or at a personal level.

"She is a lonely figure," the ex-official said.

The former secretary narrated one incident when, while in the south, the women officials with Arroyo decided to gather. They asked the president to join them. When Arroyo asked them what the meeting was about, she was told that the other female officials just wanted to have some "girl talk," for them and the president to loosen up a bit.

Arroyo wanted them to be specific. So she was told something to the effect that, in case the president deems an official's job to be unsatisfactory, she should tell the official that. If the official did well, it wouldn't hurt to praise the official.

The president replied: "Well, if you're not doing your job properly, you'll definitely hear from me. If you're doing good, don't expect to hear from me. You're not gonna get positive strokes from me." (Or words to that effect.)

The women with the president were stunned.

As you can imagine, that was the first and only time Arroyo's women secretaries and advisers tried to bond with the president.

Darna and Gloria

I bought my four-year-old niece a pair of black Barbie boots today. She's delighted, of course. She's been shouting "Darna!" the whole afternoon, her black boots on, assuming the "Darna" fighting stance. Terrific child.

At least for the whole afternoon, she took my mind off the many sordid things that are happening to my country. Foremost, of course, is the election-tampering scandal faced by my president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Yesterday, she said she would form a "truth commission" to look into the allegations leveled against her. My first reaction upon hearing this was, "Hello!?" She's the accused and she's forming the body that will investigate her?

She's totally lost all credibility and I wouldn't be surprised if she's booted out in the next month or so.

Anyway, aside from former senator John Osmena's charge that Arroyo cheated in the Visayas in the last election, I also learned from a very reliable source (a legislator, in fact) that a witness will come out in the Senate soon who will directly link Arroyo to jueteng. The story goes that, sometime before the election, Arroyo -- right inside her La Vista home -- doled out jueteng money to be used for cheating in the 2004 elections.