IT ALL started late night of April 9, 2008 when Christian M. Kalaw was arrested by the police for alleged illegal parking and driving without license in Manila.
Two years and four months later, on August 23, 2010 one of those Christian accused of robbery, extortion, grave threats, and physical injuries commandeered a tourist bus and proceeded to hold its occupants hostage.
The hostage-taker would have an 11-hour standoff with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team of the Manila Police District (MPD). When it ended, nine people lay dead inside the Hong-Thai tourist bus, which was parked at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila: the hostage taker himself, Senior Inspector (Captain) Rolando Mendoza, and eight Hong Kong nationals.
When the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) on the August 23 Quirino Grandstand hostage incident finally uses the word “extort,” it almost seems like an afterthought. The word is buried in the second to the last paragraph of the last page of the report it submitted a month ago to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
“This is our society,” the report concludes. “It drives otherwise ordinary and simple men to turn into murdering monsters at a snap. Because they feel oppressed and need justice but are asked for money. They ask for redemption but are faced with extortion. Officials without shame, policemen without competence, politicians without care, reporters without conscience, a nation without luck. Mendoza was only the instrument in the murder of eight innocent human beings.”
ON THE day he received the 82-page report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) about the Rizal Park Hostage-taking Incident – and without even a full reading of its contents – President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III had blurted out: “Napatapang ‘ata masyado ah. Bakit kasama pa sila Puno, Lim, at Verzosa?” [It’s too strongly worded. Why are we implicating Puno, Lim and Verzosa?]
This is according to some of those present at the IIRC’s meeting with Aquino last Sept. 17. The president was, of course, referring to Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Interior and Local Government Secretary Rico E. Puno, and then Philippine National Police Director General Jesus A. Verzosa, who are among his closest personal and political allies.
BENIGNO Simeon ‘Noynoy’ C. Aquino III became the Philippines’ 15th president on June 30, 2010 or exactly 70 days ago, triggering a contagion of hopefulness among Filipinos. He wooed and won votes with a slogan that was simple, yet catchy: ”Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Without corruption, there’d be no poverty.
The second Aquino presidency has spread a virus of hope that finds sole parallel in the tide of goodwill that Filipinos bestowed on his late mother and democracy icon Corazon ‘Cory’ C. Aquino after the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt.
Indeed, Aquino’s campaign equation of “no corruption = no poverty” has animated Filipinos so much that the expectations are great that he will deliver results soon.
IN HIS message that accompanies the proposed government budget for next year, President Benigno C. Aquino III notes that the allocation for health is 13.6 percent higher than 2010’s P29.3 billion (According to the 2010 General Appropriations Act though, only P28.7 billion was allocated to the Health Department).
Yet if one were to compare health’s share of the budget for this year and what the corresponding figure could be in the next, the difference isn’t much.
For 2010, the health allocation is 1.8 percent of the P1.54-trillion national purse. For 2011, the Aquino administration is proposing P32.62 billion for health –as indicated in the proposed National Expenditure Program — which is 1.9 percent of the P1.64-trillion national budget. The increase in terms of share in the total budget then would amount to just a tenth of a percentage point.
IT WILL be his first official trip overseas as the country’s chief executive, but President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has little reason to look forward to his upcoming visit to the United States.
On September 20, Aquino will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to present just how far the Philippines has achieved progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, in large measure because of the shortcomings of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino is bound to acknowledge before other world leaders that the country is falling short of several of these targets.
In September 2000, the Philippines and 188 other countries signed the Millennium Declaration, and committed themselves to achieving a set of eight goals by 2015. These goals – the MDGs – have since been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress for both rich and poor countries.
IT WAS 1992; Fidel V. Ramos had just been voted as president, and Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada as vice president. Presidential bet Miriam Defensor Santiago was crying foul, saying she had been cheated. She would later file an electoral protest, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was apparently more interested in something else: conducting its first ever audit of the campaign contributions and expenses of candidates for president, vice president, and senators for the then recently concluded polls.
The Comelec, then headed by Christian Monsod, seemed serious, and even formed a committee to examine the books of account of candidates, political parties, donors, and media entities. Lawyer Josefina de la Cruz, who became part of that committee, also recalls that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Commission on Audit (COA), and the National Bureau of Investigation served as Comelec’s “counterparts” in the initiative.
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