THIS is a country where there’s always someone spoofing a president — dead or alive — on TV, during concerts, Halloween parties, and from time to time, at people power marches on Edsa.
There are a few who stand out, who have endured a revolution or two, and became icons. Willie Nepomuceno, Tessie Tomas, and Jon Santos have been around longer than some of the presidents and presidential wannabes (Cory, FVR, Erap, FPJ, GMA, Roco, Ping, Bro. Eddie, and Eddie Gil) they’ve emulated.
SUPPORTERS of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent more than P22 million in advertisements in major Manila dailies in the period of just three-and-a-half months since the “Gloriagate” crisis began.
But was it money well spent? Public-relations and advertising experts on both sides of the political divide agree that it is unlikely the ads changed many people’s minds. They were mainly a show of strength.
POONA BAYABAO, Lanao del Sur — “Fernando Poe, Fernando Poe.” With clenched fists and his right hand raised, octogenarian Hadji Mohammad Monte repeated the name of the late action star like a mantra when asked whom he voted for in the last presidential elections. He insisted that Poe was number one among the residents of this town where the late king of Philippine movies was — and still is — very popular.
TOWERVILLE, San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan — Every day, around lunch time, hungry mothers and children hang around Nazaria Castillo’s carinderia in the hope of getting food. Castillo knows they have no money, and so she herds them inside her store and feeds them whatever humble meal she is selling that day.
IMAGINE uprooting 40,000 families — twice the entire population of the municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila — and relocating them elsewhere.
By any stretch of the imagination, this would be a logistical and sociological nightmare. The financial cost alone would also be staggering. This is exactly what is happening in the government program to relocate those who will be displaced by the North Rail Project. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) estimates that the government needs to shell out at least P6.6 billion in resettlement costs, but it is not clear where this money is going to come from.
WHILE CONGRESS is busy looking into allegations that jueteng lord Bong Pineda contributed P300 million to the Arroyo campaign, far less attention has so far been devoted to charges that the President’s biggest donor was actually the Filipino taxpayer.
As much as P5 billion from government coffers could have been used to promote Arroyo’s candidacy, PCIJ research shows. The Department of Agriculture (DA) was the biggest source of the funds — about P3 billion worth of DA funds was released mainly to pro-Arroyo local officials and congressmen from February to May 2004.
THERE ARE virtually no farms in Las Piñas, Parañaque, Quezon City and certainly not in Makati. Yet these overbuilt and densely-populated cities were among at least 100 congressional districts that, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), needed P1.8 billion in farm inputs and implements in February 2004, just when the presidential campaign was kicking off.
I’M A CERTIFIED Nethead and I can get down and digital with the best of them. But Rochelle Lazarte and her five friends make me feel as ancient as a rotary phone. Formed only seven months ago, their barkada is basking in its newfound friendship that traces its beginnings — the same way that many relationships among young people are being born and nurtured today — in cyberspace.
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