31 August 2013

"Let our nation live again in truth and decency."

FWD - When children as old as our daughters and sons go out to the streets to denounce rampant official corruption and continuing government sponsored injustice, its time for us parents to take a more radical stand and act accordingly. This official drama perpetrated by Malacanang will never cease until we all put our foot down, occupy EDSA once more and ask Noynoy Aquino to go. NOYNOY must resign and let our nation live again in truth and decency. Pls pass. 

(Text Nessage, Aug 31, 2013, 12:13 PM)

29 August 2013

"Million People March"

“Million People March” dominated by middle and upper-class elements, not usual protest hakot crowd. Protest rallies all around the country planted seeds of outrage that ought to be addressed. Distortions on Luneta crowd size and the “CJ Corona boo-ing' episode.

They came from all directions, as early as around 6 am., last Aug. 26, National Heroes Day, to participate in the Million People March against the hated pork barrel funds, despite many odds against them. The weather remained inclement and from time to time light showers would drop, but the people, armed with rain jackets and raincoats, rubber shoes and umbrellas, were prepared to brave even a storm.

In fact, many tents bloomed in the Luneta’s periphery where whole families with small children stayed all day, complete with deck chairs.  Hawkers made a killing selling thin asbestos sheets that tired protesters could spread on the muddy grass to rest their legs.


The US Embassy quietly advised dual citizens that there could be security threats in that mass gathering, but still people were undaunted and came out in droves.

Then too, the Palace tried to pre-empt the march the day before by calling a press conference where President Aquino, flanked by the two leaders of Congress, declared “it was time to abolish the PDAF.” But the folks did not buy that line, for in the course of his speech it turned out that he was presenting the same dog but with a different collar---line-item budgeting instead of the old easily-manipulated lump sum.

Hence, the folks still came out en masse to press abolition not just  of congressional pork but ALL PORK, including P-Noy’s.


Juana Change
As has been pointed out by analysts, what was incredible about last Monday’s march was that the mammoth protest was leaderless and so loosely organized---with just social media as the communications link.

There was no organized program---in fact there was no grand stage (the Quirino Grandstand didn’t serve the usual purpose as in past rallies), but a couple of small stages spread out with their own little programs, and pockets of happenings in various parts of the huge grounds.

Big delegations came, with schools like St. Scholastica’s and the De La Salle University System (whose President enjoined all its schools to show up there---how did Bro. Armin Luistro defend it?), seminarians from two major seminaries, and various faith organizations.  Many show-biz celebrities showed up.


But dominating last Monday’s protest rally were innumerable small groups representing only themselves and their families and their barkada---citizens plainly outraged at the politicians’ squander of their tax funds amid the grinding poverty and crying needs of the country, and ready to defy the fates. 

They delivered their message by wearing porky masks and outfits (like Juana Change above), or writing messages straight from the heart in pentel pen and cartolina, in computer print-out and in handsomely prepared tarps---or simply by screamig to the max.

 At 12 noon an emcee asked everyone to make any kind of noise that could reach Malacanang for one whole minute. Amid the shouting I saw a little boy strumming a ukelele with all his might that i thought his tiny finger might break off. 


What was easily noticeable, however, was that the majority of the rallyists were from the middle and upper-classes, gleaned from their poise and attire even in the rain---unlike in past massive rallies in that place where hakot crowds dominated.

This fact should worry the P-Noy administration, for it was these classes in the dying years of the prolonged Marcos era which steadily came out in the open in rally after rally, to crack the dam of the dictator’s hold. It is these classes that command people and resources that could be mobilized for any collective action in the future.


There were two distortions fed in some media.

One was the “estimate” by police authorities of the crowds as between 100,000 to 200,000. If the police really made these estimates, it was obvious that they were playing down the crowd size to please their superiors. The aerial shots showed a mammoth crowd---not in the million promised, but quite an impressive number for starters, the first mass action in the P-Noy administration.

What made them appear thin was the fact that some parts of the park were quite muddy and even filled with shallow water, forcing people to seek less hostile grounds along the periphery.

Moreover, it was significant that similar protest marches and demonstrations were made in just about every key city around the archipelago, numbering from a few hundreds to a couple of thousand participants in each. Those outlets now contain what analysts opine are the irreversible seeds of protests---for the moment it’s the gargantuan abuse of the pork barrel, but who knows what cause celebre this potent force could be protesting in the coming weeks and months, as the winter of political discontent over related issues sets in.


The other distortion was that former Chief Justice Renato Corona was booed by the protest crowds.  He was booed and heckled indeed, but it was only by a couple of agitators who were probably marshaled for the purpose of just screaming invectives at anyone, to disrupt the peace of the rally.

Or the agitators could have been warned the day before by Facebook entries excitedly talking about Corona’s showing up at the protest rally next day, and they lay waiting for him.


This blogger marched at past 8 am. with the group called “Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem),” that has been protesting various electoral frauds in the two recent automated elections.  Tandem marched from Aristocrat Restaurant, the meeting place along Roxas Blvd., all the way to the Luneta, with folks carrying banners advocating the truth about the PDAF controversy.

Upon reaching the park I peeled off from the Tandem group and I began walking all over the huge park to check out the various clusters of people huddled along the low concrete fences on the periphery. That’s how I discovered where much of the crowds sought refuge under the trees, invisible to the aerial photographers.  That’s also where I saw a group of Ifugao dancers enthralling the crowds near the Manila Hotel with their tribal dances.


Toward late morning, after my inspection tour of the entire park I came to the periphery of the Quirino Grandstand that was set off from the park by steel fences. There was a little commotion and a small woman I encountered said with what seemed like a very satisfied smile, “Corona was boo-ed,” pointing in the Grandstand’s direction.

Since CJ Corona and his family are my friends I became curious and worried, and then I heard a tall muscular guy near me angrily shouting, “Epal, epal.” From a little distance, I saw some people filing into a car and I presumed they were the former CJ’s family. I later read in media that some Corona sympathizers in the crowd began counter-screaming in CJ's defense.


But what was interesting was that soon afterwards, that same tall muscular guy again began shouting, “Epal, epal.” But this time his screams were directed toward a group of male and female mestizos approaching. I couldn’t understand why the man was shouting, as the smartly-dressed group was simply sauntering by.

By then I was quite upset at the muscular man's ruckus, and I began questioning him, “Bakit kasumisigaw ng ‘Epal,’ kilala mo ba sila? May ginawa ba silang masama?”  He looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and anger, and said, “A basta, epal sila.”  I retorted, “Bakit, kasi ba hindi mo sila ka-kulor, epal na agad sila? Wala naman silang ginagawa” 

The guy glared at me and then abruptly left, and by then the small woman beside me had also gone.  I concluded that they were just part of the scene, typical agit-props. But some yellow media made such a big deal about the crowds booing the Coronas, as though the entire Luneta had erupted in it.

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20 August 2013

‘Million people march’ vs pork spreads like Arab Spring


By Inquirer Staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:45 am / Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

A social media initiative calling for a "million people march to Luneta" to demand the scrapping of the lawmakers' pork barrel is shaping up as a sort of an Arab Spring spreading across the Philippine archipelago - from Baguio in the north to Davao in the south.

Just like the Facebook post that ignited the Luneta event scheduled on Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. in Manila, netizens urged outraged Filipinos to gather in town squares and plazas in a show of force to put an end to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen amid allegations billions of pesos intended to ease rural poverty had instead gone to ghost projects and kickbacks.

Posts on the networking site urged residents of Davao City to show up at Rizal Park and come up with designs of protest shirts. No one has claimed leadership for the campaign in the city, making it a citizens’ initiative.

Similar calls were made on the Internet for gatherings in Iloilo City, either at Museo Iloilo or Plaza Libertad; in Dagupan at City Plaza; at People’s Park (Malcolm Square) in Baguio, and in the cities of Legazpi and Lucena.

“If we can’t go to the ‘million people march to Luneta,’ let’s do this in Baguio,” said blogger Simon Francis Blaise Vistro on Facebook. “Say no to Pork! Tayo ang Boss!” Vistro said. “Wear white. No group banners. No political colors. No speeches. Just us, ordinary people.”

“The protest action is the manifestation of support to the snowballing nationwide fury against rampant graft and corruption in the government,” said Janspeth Geronimo, spokesperson for a coalition of farmer groups.

The million people march to Luneta, which arose from Facebook posts, is intended to gather together citizens who are outraged over the misuse of public funds. It is intended to show the people’s anger and send the message that taxpayers want the pork barrel scrapped and that legislators implicated in the scam must be investigated and charged.

“It’s people empowerment,” said Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña, the “reluctant host” of the event’s Facebook page.
In a phone interview, Bretaña said she had not intended to be the event’s host after she shared the idea of having a gathering to air the people’s sentiment of the issue. But so many people were similarly outraged that the event seemingly took on a life of its own, with thousands signing up to join.

Even overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have joined the movement.

But Bretaña said the gathering should be about the ordinary citizens, the taxpayers. It should be free from affiliation and should not be about politics or politicians. It should not be about leftists, rightists, or centrists.

At the same time, she appealed to those joining the gathering to be respectful of others.

So far, more than 7,000 Facebook users said they were going to the event, and more netizens have pledged to support it and be there in spirit.

The group Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards or PEBA Inc. said in a post that OFWs would change their Facebook photos and Facebook banners in solidarity with people who would troop to Rizal Park.

One OFW, Joel Ramirez, said on the event Facebook page that even if he could not go to the event, he was supporting it because he was a taxpayer, too, and that the government owed the Filipinos an explanation on what happened to the funds.

Militant groups such as Bayan Muna have announced they were joining the gatherings in Luneta and elsewhere.

Permit needed

Kenneth Montegrande of the National Parks Development Committee said he had yet to confirm if the office received a formal notice of the Luneta event.

“No matter how big or small the event, they need a permit. If they’re talking of a million people, they need to coordinate with our office to ensure security and safety of facilities,” Montegrande said.

In a manner similar to Occupy Wall Street, the million people march has no leader or organizer. It was inspired by a Facebook post from music production manager Ito Rapadas that there should be a million marchers to make a compelling stand against the pork barrel scam.

One of the Facebook users who set up an events page said it would be a pocket picnic and not a rally since no one would get a permit for it.

“The thing is, the intention is still to hold a protest,” Montegrande said. “The park is open. I don’t see any reason why a permit would not be approved. We just need proper coordination to ensure that it would be peaceful.”

He added that, depending on the size of the gathering, the park authorities should be notified at least a week before the event.

Lesson of history

Former Environment Secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr. said Tuesday he expected outrage to spread after President Aquino rejected the clamor for the abolition of PDAF.

“I can’t understand it except in the context of having carrots to dangle before uncooperative lawmakers,” Factoran, a member of the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), said of the President’s defense of the pork barrel fund.
Factoran said the President’s stand would not stop him and thousands of others from joining the gathering.

While it may seem futile for some, Factoran, who served the Cabinet of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, said the rally was necessary to deliver the people’s outrage to the Chief Executive, who allotted P25-billion PDAF in the proposed P2.268-trillion 2014 budget.

“What we want to do is to send the message to the President that we are opposed to this. They can go ahead with what they believe in, but it should be clear in their mind that the Filipino people are opposed to this,” he said by phone.
As academics, Church officials, and civil society groups stepped up calls for its abolition, Factoran predicted that public outrage would “spread as more people will be conscious of its evil.”

“The lessons of history tell us that united people can’t be resisted,” he said. “If the President will no longer change his mind, we will wait for the next administration. Somewhere a leader will emerge and listen to us.”—With reports from TJ A. Burgonio, Leila B. Salaverria and Erika Sauler in Manila; Gabriel Cardinoza and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr. and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

From Facebook to Luneta: Anti-pork protest spills into streets August 26

August 18, 2013 2:19pm
Wait and see on August 26, the date set by outraged netizens for an amorphous anti-pork barrel movement to march to Luneta. The target: one million marchers.

This is one of several posters circulating on Facebook, inviting people to join the August 26 march to Luneta. 
It's an ambitious goal for an anger that has been mostly expressed online so far. The event, triggered by sentiments posted on Facebook, will be a test of whether netizens are motivated enough by this issue to eyeball each other in large numbers.

It is being branded a "pocket picnic" for taxpayers who demand that the pork barrel be scrapped, and that guilty lawmakers in the pork barrel fund scam charged, "with full media coverage for the people to see."

Since the Facebook event page was created on Saturday afternoon, thousands had indicated they would join the protest action, which coincides with the celebration of National Heroes' Day.

As of Sunday, over 3,000 people said they were going. Some also expressed support with statements such as "Enough is enough!" and "It's time to walk the talk."

Social media has been abuzz with outrage since news broke of a P10-billion pork barrel fund racket allegedly led by Janet Lim-Napoles. The businesswoman was accused of channeling money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel of several lawmakers to her own accounts through various foundations.

Angry Filipinos have taken to sites like Facebook and Twitter to express their disgust, denouncing Napoles's wealth, including her daughter Jeane's lavish lifestyle.

Those who feel the protest should also be held offline welcomed the August 26 march, which was inspired by a post by music executive Ito Rapadas: "What we need is a MILLION PEOPLE MARCH by struggling Filipino taxpayers- a day of protest by the silent majority that would demand all politicians and govt. officials (whatever the political stripes, color they may carry) to stop pocketing our taxes borne out from our hard work by means of these pork barrel scams and other creative criminal acts. They don't want to investigate themselves, they remain relaxed and unperturbed because they believe it will die down in time. Let's make them feel that this time is DIFFERENT cause we are all sick and tired of it! PLS. REPOST IF YOU AGREE!"

Rapadas told GMA News Online that the “million people” line was “a visual tool” that can help mobilize some form of action. “It gained followers in short time so it manifests the need for these individuals to 'do something,'” he said.

Among those who shared Rapadas' post was Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña, who set the date for the march.

"Dapat sa ARAW NG MGA BAYANI tayo mag-march, AUGUST 26. Dahil tayong lahat ang pinapatay na lang ARAW-ARAW ng mga Senador, Congressmen at mga tulad ni Napoles habang AYAW NILANG IMBESTIGAHAN ANG KASUKA-SUKANG PORK BARREL FUND na 'to," Bretaña wrote on Facebook.

The event page was created by documentary television program Power ng Pinoy, but Bretaña says there are no organizers for the march.

"I have no political affiliations. This is being powered by ordinary people. No groups. No funds,"Bretaña said on Facebook when asked who was behind the march.

Bretaña, who described herself as an "ordinary diligent taxpaying employee," said the march was"social media-activated and people-powered."

“Ako mismo hindi naman nag ma-march. Pero baka in the midst of all this genuine venting of frustration sa social media – parang meron 'oo nga ano!' moment ng mabasa nila na pwede mag meet ang mga tao re this issue,” Rapadas said.

Some who were interested in joining noted that there may be a need for more coordination and security.

So far, the only details were to meet in front of the Luneta Grandstand at 9 a.m., wearing white for solidarity. Protesters were instructed to share the following on social media: "I am *NAME* PINOY ako. I pay my taxes, on-time & in-full. YOU, my government, owe me a full explanation. @ProtestaNgBayan HASHTAG: #OnePinoy #MillionPeopleMarch #ProtestaNgBayan"

"No group banners. No political colors. No Speeches. Just ALL OF US ordinary, tax-paying people showing GOV'T THEY ANSWER TO US. TAYO ANG BOSS DITO. We need this outrage, anger to reach critical mass. SPREAD THE WORD. REPOST," the event description read.

While many welcomed the plan to march, some noted its rules were not realistic. "If it is an open call to join with no definite set of leaders or coordinating group, then don't expect to impose any stringent rules like who can or can't join or what kind of placards or streamers they can bring, etc.," Teddy Casiño said.

According to Rapadas, the rule may be a result of social media netizens' lack of trust in politicians and political groups. “Parang knot na impossible ma-unknot sa paningin nila. Pero kung tutuusin simple lang naman ang gusto nila – stop these pork barrel scams, investigate so solutions can be devised,” he said.

He added that the idea to hold a “power picnic” would be practical, as such an activity would not need a permit. “So ang general plan ay magkikita-kita roon. Maaring may pumunta, maaring wala. Ano kaya ang gagawin? 'Di ko alam. Baka biglang mag kwe-kwentuhan lang ang naroon. Or kung umulan like right now, baka walang pumunta. So tingnan natin kung yung outrage ng netizens ay ma e-express nga sa meet up/eyeball na ito,” Rapadas said.

Others were suspicious that the rally might be used by certain groups to promote their own interests, or that interest would not be sustained without someone to lead the movement. "If not, we will just look like a tourist enjoying Luneta. And if we bring out a single placard in protest with the tight security because it's 'Araw ng mga Bayani' we can be dispersed without any right," Bandril Mon wrote on the event page.

Despite such concerns, the number of attendees kept growing. "It's all moving on its own volition because this is so personal for all of us," Bretaña said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, a nationwide walkout of classes for the abolition of the pork barrel system has been set for August 23. There will be a program from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, to be followed by a protest concert. – BM/HS, GMA News

02 August 2013

No to war and manipulated elections

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 3, 2013 - 12:00am

It may be a coincidence but while in London I read a review of Rama Mitter’s book, “China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival.” The review was written by Martin Jacques for the Financial Times.
I realized how little we know about the enmity between these two countries. But as Mitter points out 14 million Chinese died in “defense of the realm.” At the time China was a poor, developing country and treated as an inferior by the US and Britain even as both came to its aid in its fight with Japan. The review says that this is a neglected fact because soon after fascism was defeated in 1945 “the geopolitical cards were reshuffled.”
The anti-fascist imperative gave way to the exigencies of the cold war. Japan, from being a pariah became America’s key east Asian ally while China became the new enemy.”
*      *      *
On landing in Manila and with this background in mind, I cannot help but view the joint statement between Japan’s Prime Minister and the Philippine president with a large dose of salt. By all means let us accept Japan’s helping hand and Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s four initiatives especially for economic reasons. But as always it should be with a “caveat emptor.” And the best way to do this is to keep an even hand in dealing with economic and development partners whether it is Japan, China or the US.
What we should avoid is to be used as a staging ground for war of the ‘biggies’. We should continue to foster good relations with China and focus our efforts on what is good for our country rather than be a prey for a geopolitical agenda in which Japan is playing a significant role. Neither can China be blamed for feeling threatened once again and feel compelled to “defend its realm.”
Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

As Mitter’s book reminds us “Between 1868 and 1945 the country (Japan) fought 10 major wars, lasting 30 years in total, all but one at the expense of its Asian neighbors (including the Philippines). From 1937 it was to carve through much of northern, central, eastern and southern China. Chiang’s forces were in perpetual retreat.”
That past impinges on the present and explains why China would not want to be as helpless as it was before. Its attitudes have been shaped by a harrowing history of war especially with Japan. “Mitter’s descriptions of the Japanese massacre in Nanjing, where hundreds of thousands were killed, and life in the air-raid shelters in the western city of Chongqing are compelling,” the review adds.
It is that fear of the past that compels China to act so it would not be as vulnerable as it had once been.
*      *      *
This is the era of “problematic” elections. But as usual some are more problematic than others, I am beginning to wonder just what elections are being used for other than a country being able to choose its leaders.
I was struck by some comments made by my friend Belinda Olivares-Cunanan in her blog Polbits on the recent elections in Cambodia. She was invited by former Speaker Jose De Venecia, president of ICAPP, to be part of the monitoring team of the elections.
Since I was not there I will just quote parts of her article and you can draw your own conclusions.
I had this strong déjà vu feeling in Phnom Penh as I listened to claims of election irregularities and to Sam Rainsy’s plea for US support for recount of votes.
Rainsy is luckier than us Filipinos: we have documented all kinds of issues vs. Comelec but Brillantes simply stonewalls them and no reaction from US.”
Cunanan’s comments depart from the usual made to assess elections in various countries because she tackles it from a geopolitical vantage point. She said she thought she was taking a vacation from local politics with the Smartmatic-PCOS issue still unresolved and pending. And although there were accusations of cheating too in Cambodia, the Philippine elections cheating formula is quite different. She laments though that there is an uneven treatment of the US on elections in the Philippines and Cambodia.
After the opposition candidate Sam Rainsy met with the American Ambassador things began to move.
Soon enough a spokesperson from the US State Department in Washington issued a statement expressing concern about the numerous reported irregularities in the elections, including “systemic flaws such as problems in the voter registry and unequal access to the media.” While careful about being perceived as backing the opposition’s call for an investigation “specifically,” nevertheless it safely stressed the need “for a full and transparent investigation that will be (viewed) as credible by the Cambodian people.”
In this regard, I can only envy the Cambodian people, for we Filipinos who had monitored our own national and local elections of last May have grown hoarse presenting all manner of irregularities, and yet the US government, represented by Amb. Harry Thomas, chose to play the role of the traditional monkey in Asian fable – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Obviously the US ploy is to protect the results as far back as our first fully automated elections of 2010 that, in the light of so many revelations that have since surfaced about the PCOS machines, have put into question the legitimacy of the leadership installed then.  Why the US role of the traditional monkey? It’s all about the issue of basing and geopolitical realities.”
(CNP: It is not too bad if it should encourage us to finally grow out of US dependence. Elections should be our business not anybody else’s. Have you ever heard of election monitors in the UK, Australia, France etc.)
*      *      *

US ploy to protect automated elections

Political Tidbits
Belinda Olivarez-Cunanan
01 August 2013

I had this strong déjà vu feeling in Phnom Penh as I listened to claims of election irregularities and to Sam Rainsy’s plea for US support for vote recount. US State Dept. sympathetic and insists on credible elections. Rainsy luckier than us Filipinos: we have documented all kinds of issues vs. Comelec but Chair Brillantes simply stonewalls them---and no reaction from US.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia---When I got the invitation from former Speaker Jose de Venecia to join two distinguished groups of international observers to the parliamentary elections in Cambodia last Sunday, I grabbed the chance as I thought it would be a vacation of sorts, a welcome relief from all the lousy news in Manila---the pork barrel scam involving Congress, allegations about presidential sister Ballsy Cruz and husband Eldon’s involvement in the Czech firm Inekon mess, the ‘three kings’ operating in Customs, and of course, the continuing unresolved controversies over cheatings in our May 13, 2013 automated elections, etc.

But lo and behold, it only brought me this déjà vu feeling---like I never left home. In Phnom Penh, monitors picked up issues of not-so-indelible ink in some places and violence in some areas. In a country of 9 million voters, the opposition claims 1.2 to 1.3 million were unable to vote because their names were not on the list, while about 1 million ghost names were on the voters' list.

Rumors of impending cheating in various provinces by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) had prompted saffron-robed Buddhist monks to momentarily abandon their nirvana world and campaign for the opposition coalition of returning exile Sam Rainsy (who, ironically, wasn’t even a candidate in the elections).  On election morning our monitoring team came upon a group of monks patiently sitting outside a precinct in a pagoda, armed with cell phones and ready to report to the National Election Committee (NEC) if they spotted fraud.


Before the elections our observers’ group had an audience with the ascetic-looking intellectual leader and former Finance Minister Rainsy, who had hinted of the extreme scenario of people power should his people be cheated by the CPP of Prime Minister Hun Sen. With the circumstances of his return from four years of exile in France and persuasive manner of talking, Rainsy reminded me  a lot of Ninoy Aquino.

Amidst crowds vying for his attention I managed to get close enough to whisper to Rainsy, “Sure, the way things are, people power could crop up as a decided option for your party, but please don’t die as your people need you,” and he smiled. I thought I detected the same inevitable sense of destiny in him.

To add to this sense of déjà vu, guess who was in Phnom Penh to join his counterparts from the nine other ASEAN countries as guests of the NEC?--- Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes. But he had to rush back to Manila to supervise the coming barangay elections, so mercifully our paths didn’t cross.


Three days after Cambodia’s elections things remain far from settled and tension continues to lurk in the capital. A young Cambodian studying to be a lawyer opined that if anything would break out, it will have to be in the capital, not in the provinces.

Analysts talk endlessly in coffee shops and in media about what lies ahead for this once strife-torn nation. For this blogger, a veteran of elections here and abroad for 30 years, it's clear that the broad masses of Cambodians clamor not just for reforms but for change of the dramatis personae.

The CPP has become a party of mostly old politicians who had stayed too long on the stage (when Ambassador Cunanan and I left 15 years ago they were already the ruling elite, led by PM Hun Sen who has ruled for the past 28 years). Moreover, their fabled lifestyle has shocked the very poor comprising the overwhelming majority. 

As a foreign observer put it, politicians should know when their time is up.


Sam Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) coalition that enjoys broad mass appeal especially among the youth, claims that based on its followers’ tabulations from Phnom Penh and the provinces, CNRP has actually garnered 63 seats in the 123-member National Assembly vs. the NEC’s record of 55 votes for this party; whereas, says Rainsy, CPP only bagged 60 seats, not 68 as NEC said. CPP also barely squeaked by in the popular vote---48.7% vs. the CNRP's 44.5%

If these claims of Rainsy are vaidated, this means CNRP now has control of the National Assembly and should get to elect the PM who would rule the country in the next five years.

Interestingly, since the close of the elections, Hun Sen has not appeared publicly and rumor swept the capital that he has fled the country.  The CPP denied it fast as psy-war tactic; nonetheless it appears to have been shaken to its roots by the stunning doubling of victory by CNRP despite Rainsy’s non-run (it was his deputy Kim Sokha who led the candidates) and the CPP’s own loss of 22 seats that it had handily won in 2008. 

But even more shocking, eight of the young, foreign-educated scions of ruling elite families, whom their aging fathers had placed in middle government positions in the hope that they would continue the dynastic leadership of the country after them, all lost in the elections. 

It's another deja vu for me---the dynasty issue is alive, but beginning to crumble in Cambodia.


Sam Rainsy’s claim of majority vote was turned down by the NEC dominated by Hun Sen appointees and obviously he's not about to yield power easily. 

In a press conference yesterday morning Rainsy appealed to the UN and international watchdog organizations to mediate, as he demanded a recount of votes to settle the score between the two rival groups. Again, déjà vu, as visions of our own Comelec Chair flashed before my eyes, demanding that complaining civic groups cough up P200 million for a recount! 

A recount is not difficult under the Cambodian system as ballots are short and contain only the names of accredited political parties; there were eight accredited parties last Sunday and CPP was no. 4 and CNRP no. 7, voters check only the favored party.  It works much like our voting for party-list groups.


My group of international monitors, led by former Speaker Joe de Venecia, observed the counting in stiflingly hot classrooms with tiny  windows in a big school in the capital, together with various local party representatives. The counting was over in an hour or so, with party reps furnished copies of tabulated scores.

This is so unlike our presidential system where ballots are kilometric because they contain the names of candidates for innumerable posts. The parliamentary system makes more sense---manually done and sans the PCOS cheating machines.


The problem now is whether Hun Sen’s party, which has monopolized power for the past 28 years, would accede to a recount and possibly, given the stunning closeness of Sunday’s elections, flirt with the real danger of losing control of the National Assembly that elect the country's rulers. 

On the night of the elections, buoyed up by terrific gains his party had made, Rainsy spoke on TV of "peace and reconciliation" with the ruling party which De Venecia's international monitors lauded heartily as "timely and the need of the hour...a win-win situation for all Cambodians."

 But last Monday morning, as reports of irregularities from the provinces came in, Rainsy stopped talking of a political honeymoon. Early last Tuesday he and his wife, opposition leader Tioulong Saumura, were seen leaving the residence of US Ambassador William Todd and popular speculation was that he sought the help of the US envoy to get that vote recount.


Soon enough a spokesperson from the US State Department in Washington issued a statement expressing concern about the numerous reported irregularities in the elections, including “systemic flaws such as problems in the voter registry and unequal access to the media.” While careful about being perceived as backing the opposition’s call for an investigation “specifically,” nevertheless it safely stressed the need “for a full and transparent investigation that will be (viewed) as credible by the Cambodian people.” 

In this regard, I can only envy the Cambodian people, for we Filipinos who had monitored our own national and local elections of last May have grown hoarse presenting all manner of irregularities;  yet the US government, represented by Ambassador Harry Thomas, chose to play the role of the traditional monkey in Asian fable---see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. 

Obviously the US ploy is to protect the results as far back as our first fully automated elections of 2010 that, in the light of so many revelations that have since surfaced about the manipulable PCOS machines, have seriously put into question the legitimacy of our top leadership installed then.  Why the US role of the traditional monkey? It's all about the issue of basing and geopolitical realities.