For the last several months we have been swimming in an alphabet soup of acronyms — NBN, ZTE, NEDA, FG, FGI, to name a few. And more keep pouring in; these days, the most oft-repeated one is NFA, or the National Food Authority. Yet what we should have been repeating like a mantra is MDG and its plural form, which stands for Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, the Philippines became one of the signatories to the Millennium Declaration, thereby sealing its commitment to meeting by 2015 eight goals that address development concerns worldwide. Last year marked the midpoint in the period allotted to the achievement of these MDGs.
IF I had to write a script for a movie on political violence, I could not come up with a better one than the ongoing live drama starring political bigwigs from the province of Abra. The assassination of Abra Congressman Luis Bersamin Jr. and his bodyguard outside a church — right after a wedding — last December 16 provides the slam-bang opening scene. Cut to assassins escaping on a motorcycle. Tracing the registration of the getaway vehicle leads to the arrest of one Rufino Panday, a former Army master sergeant, who identifies not only the assassins, but also the mastermind, who he says is Abra Governor Vicente Valera. Two weeks later comes the cinematic arrest of Governor Valera himself, shortly after he leaves the house of his alleged mistress at dawn. But of course there has to be a dramatic car chase first, and then there is the governor looking bug-eyed in a roomful of authorities and nosy media. Arrested with him are three bodyguards, and the police find in his new, hulking SUV an automatic assault rifle, six 45-caliber pistols, and a fragmentation grenade.
HOME OF the Sultanates, sarimanok, and Islam: Visiting Lanao del Sur province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is like going back to centuries ago, when women walked around gracefully in their malongs (traditional wrap-around clothing) and men who had betel-stained golden teeth played chess all day. But although being transported to a place that seems stuck in time could be soothing to a frazzled urbanite, the truth is Lanao del Sur is that way largely because it is one of the poorest provinces in the country, while ARMM is the poorest region in the Philippines in all indicators of human development.
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.
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