Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cory and our inscrutable politics - Malou Mangahas

Cory and our inscrutable politics - Malou Mangahas
by Malou Mangahas, PCIJ

FOR FIVE years and through seven botched coups mounted against her government, I covered President Cory as a reporter for The Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle.

We were all young then, impetuous, stubborn, irrepressible, and we did not always agree with Cory and her Cabinet. To be honest, there were moments we did not like her all that much. And the feeling, though fleeting, was somewhat mutual.

Field a testy question, and she was sure to show her repulsion. In quick succession, she’d serve you a pout (her mouth twitched, not puckered), knit her brows, swing her head to the left, then right, then left again, and finally a curt missive, “Next question, please.”

I was then president of the Malacañang Press Corps, the batch that came to be called “Brat Pack,” which in 1987 staged a protest action against Cory and her restrictive guards. We all came garbed in black or with black armbands. For hours, we sat slumped on the curbside of Malacanang Palace. It was to be the only protest action to be staged by reporters inside Malacanang.

For three days, with our editors’ support, we did not to write a single story about Cory. We ignored her and all her events at the Palace. All we wanted was reasonable access to information and to official sources as we believed befitted the return of press freedom after the EDSA People Power revolt.

We called her “Presidentita,” and the Palace guards commanded by then Col. Voltaire Gazmin, her attack dogs. Not that they actually assaulted us with cannons and rifles, but there were many episodes of pushing and shoving and verbal tussles between the guards and the Palace press. They wanted to secure Cory’s space; we wanted our stories from Cory’s office.

One time the guards pushed too much that Malaya reporter Joel C. Paredes actually challenged Cory’s guards to a fistfight. Brave, burly, but pudgy, Joel, a former college fratman, suddenly dropped notebook and pen, rolled his fists into balls, spread his legs a la Pacquiao on the ring with Hatton, and summoned Cory’s guards to a jabfest.

We got Joel out of the scene, rescuing him from certain death. After he had chilled, we realized the inequity of it all: our notebooks and pens vs the weapons cache of Cory’s guards, not to mention of the Armed Forces, which she led as commander in chief!

Perhaps the pushing and shoving came with the territory because we wanted to cover Cory so diligently. That, or we inflicted the power of the pen too much on Cory and her officials.

The Cory government had to contend with a media most pervasive, most menacing, and most unruly. From sunrise to dusk—on occasion up to midnight or dawn because coups and calamities visited her government in a series—we covered Cory like crazy, obsessively, compulsively. In large measure, that was because we were too zealous of our restored freedoms; we did not want to yield ground, or leave any policies unexplained by Cory and her officials

Most working days, the reporters among us would typically thrust tape recorders, the photographers Nikon and Canon with massive lens, and the television crew big, heavy videocams, onto the mouth, nose, ear, nape, and face of whoever emerged from a visit or meeting with the Presidentita. Most of the time, by our own doing, we went home with bumps or lumps, or abscess from the cameras and recorders we carried.

When Cory went to church or held closed-door meetings with anyone, we hounded her, too. Our network of sources then was, in reporter’s lingo, as deep as an oil well. It had to be because Cory presided over a government that launched too many firsts, enacted too many controversial policies. She also had to deal with too many threats to the security of the republic, and too many Marcos-era politicians vanquished or reinventing themselves, and who now mocked the good sense and the sanity of our people.

We resorted to the “ambush” interview—that intrusive, you might say uncouth, behavior of reporters toward sources. We did so to get our stories between the long, boring wait by the curbside of the Malacanang Premiere Guest House, a two-story building where Cory held office.

Perhaps the modesty of the official residence Cory had chosen was the real problem. There was no room at the Guest House for about 40 reporters from as many media agencies assigned to cover Cory every single day.

In time, in part because of our protest action, the Presidentita’s staff built the media a gazebo by the garden across the Guest House, and we finally had roof on our heads when it rained while we waited for news.

By 1989, as new press secretary, journalist Teodoro C. Benigno had the Malacanang Palace renovated to make room for a Press Briefing Room and workstations for the Press Corps members.

Back then, the Malacañang Beat was a hardship post. Reporters wrote from five to 12 stories a day, each with a unique event or policy peg. It was important to read up on issues and documents, to know not simply who or what but also why and how, to understand not just concepts but also stats, to be both literate and numerate.

The Cory years launched a whole new regime of good programs that by quality and quantity surpass the combined achievements of her three successors. The three post-EDSA presidents after Cory—Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—practically just had to breeze through the presidency all because Cory had done most of the work for them. And yet, by all accounts, they built less and destroyed more of what Cory had set out to do for the nation. And yes, they probably did more bad than all the good and not-so-good things that Cory did.

Apart from a new Constitution, Cory gave the nation groundbreaking policies and reforms, notably the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the Commission on Human Rights, the Local Government Code, the Family Code, the Administrative Code, the Expanded Value-Added Tax, the Generics Act, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the National Youth Commission, and a bounty of laws for mothers, children, rebel-returnees, and indigenous communities.

As well, Cory freed political prisoners, forged peace with rebels, and nursed to life the communities struck down by the biggest disasters in recent Philippine history (the 1990 earthquake and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in1991).

In Cory’s time, politics was less about spin, embellished stats, brownie points and executive privilege; politics was more about people and public service.

In Cory’s time, reporters may field the toughest questions to the highest officials and were sure to get honest – if not absolutely complete—answers. To be sure, Cory did not have all the answers to all the questions that we asked then, and still ask today, as a people.

Yet the best cut is this: When Cory was president, decency defined the conduct of reporters toward politicians, and politicians toward reporters. Integrity was the standard against which reporters assessed politicians.

Cory was sometimes a difficult source. But she certainly was always a good source. She was good as she was honest. In our trained reporter’s eye, we saw she did not know how to lie, or was totally uncomfortable holding back information. Cory would rather be caught frowning or scowling on cam than tell reporters tall tales. Indeed, the lesson of Cory Aquino as leader and president should not be lost on Filipino politicians.

Powerlessness—acting and doing like one is without power—is the secret of Cory’s power over the masses. Most others in the practice of politics today keep a contrary faith that was defined 60 years ago by Jose Avelino, Senate president under the government of Elpidio Quirino.

“What are we in power for?” asked Avelino, when he was investigated in 1949 for tax evasion and eventually sentenced to one-year suspension. Quirino later resurrected him as ambassador at large.

Avelino went down—really down the pits—of Philippine history for a devastatingly great quote on the inscrutable and incorrigible ways of Filipino politicians.

With absolute antipathy toward his investigators, he remarked: “Why should we pretend to be saints when in reality we are not? We are not angels, we are not saints. When we die, we will all go to hell. It is better to be in hell because in that place there are no investigations.”
Cory thrashed Avelino’s hypothesis of the “smarter” politician. In life as in death, she commanded the boundless affection and respect of the people that is probably the only kind of real, smart power that should matter.

The Filipino people have demonstrated time and again that they get it so well: they don’t like politicians who demonstrate genius only in the practice of the seven deadly sins—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride or vainglory.

In truth, the less Cory propped herself, the more she grew in the people’s love and respect. As president, Cory took her oath of office before the Constitution, but defined her politics by the canons of her faith, the heavenly virtues of charity, diligence, patience, kindness, temperance, and humility.

If politics were a test of sainthood, we can count by the fingers of one hand the Filipino politicians who would make the grade. In my book, as a journalist who had covered Cory then and now, even with sometimes testy results, Cory would be in top running. — Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Cory and our inscrutable politics - Malou Mangahas

It's sad that politicians after Cory Aquino could not exude integrity.

OFWs set aside divisions to honor Cory Aquino

RIYADH: Overseas Filipino Workers in the Kingdom are one in expressing pain and sadness over the death on Saturday morning of former President Corazon C. Aquino after a battle with colon cancer.

“All of us are extremely sad, to use an understatement,” said Dr. Carlito L. Astillero, a commmunity leader. “The kind of revolution she led was the first of its kind and was copied by other countries to effect change in government.”

“She left us with good memories to remember her by; this also makes her passing more painful,” said Rene G. Layug, of the sports group Siglakas and Bukabin.

“She not only took care of her own children after her husband was assassinated, but she also showed that she was a mother to the whole country,” said Roi Alojado, a community leader.

From Qassim, Dionisio B. Tabuco Jr., another community leader, said: “Her passing is a great loss for us Filipinos. She served the country selflessly.”

OFWs set aside divisions to honor Cory Aquino

I'm wondering what "divisions" this article is talking about.

ADB, European Commission send sympathies for Cory's death

ADB, European Commission send sympathies for Cory's death

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) sent its condolences to the Philippines for the demise of former president Corazon C. Aquino.

The Manila-based multilateral lender expressed its “profound sympathies and condolences to the government and the people of the Philippines, and to her family," it said in a statement sent through Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves.

Teves serves as governor for the Philippines in the ADB.

The same sentiments were expressed separately by the Philippine Delegation of the European Commission.

In a note verbale – also known as an unsigned diplomatic note – the Delegation and all its staff “join President Jose Manuel Barroso in expressing the deepest sympathy on the sad occasion of the death of former President Corazon C. Aquino."

Separately, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) also joined the country in mourning the passing away of the former president.

“Tita Cory was a champion of everything that the MAP stands for: honesty and transparency in governance, leadership by example, judicious use of power and authority, and a sincere affection for those who have less in life," the group said in a statement.

Mrs. Aquino had lent her “inspiring presence to numerous MAP events and was the driving force for many of the MAP’s pro-poor initiatives, especially those in microfinance and good governance," the statement added.

“May our great God grant Tita Cory eternal rest and may her loved ones muster strength in their hour of grief," it said. - GMANews.TV

ADB, European Commission send sympathies for Cory's death

President Cory Aquino was also a supporter of the business sector.

Pope, other world leaders honor Cory

Pope, other world leaders honor Cory
By Norman Bordadora, Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Pope Benedict XVI hailed the late former President Corazon Aquino for her “courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people” as he conveyed his condolences to her family.

In a telegram sent to Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the Pope was “deeply saddened” to learn of Aquino’s death.

Her family said in a statement that she died “peacefully” early Saturday from cardio-respiratory arrest, after her battle with cancer.

Bertone said that the Pope remembered Aquino as a woman of “deep and unwavering faith” and that the Holy Father prayed that the same faith and hope would be abundantly fulfilled.

“Recalling President Aquino’s courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance, and her contribution to the rebuilding of a just and cohesive political order in her beloved homeland, (his) Holiness commends her noble soul to the eternal mercies of God our Heavenly Father,” the telegram said.

Aquino was propelled into the political spotlight in 1986, leading millions of Filipinos in protests against the corrupt regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Outpouring of graces

The Pope also extended his blessings to the Filipino people.

“Invoking upon all the Filipino people an outpouring of Divine Graces, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing to all taking part in the Mass of Christian Burial, as a pledge of consolation, strength and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ,” Bertone said.

The Vatican secretary of state told Rosales that the Pope was asking the Manila archbishop to convey his condolences not only to the Aquino family but also to Philippine officials.

“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mrs. Corazon Aquino and he asks you to convey to her family and the government authorities his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers for her eternal rest,” the telegram read.

The text of Bertone’s telegram to the Manila archbishop was posted on the website of the Holy See’s press office’s daily bulletin.

UN secretary general

Other world leaders sent their messages honoring Aquino.

“[I] pay tribute to the former President’s exceptional courage and pivotal role in the restoration and consolidation of democracy in the Philippines,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban said “Aquino will be remembered as a beacon of democracy not only in the Philippines but also around the world.”

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “Aquino’s contributions to the development of the country and tireless devotion to peace, stability and democracy” for the Filipino people “are well recognized throughout the world and will always be remembered and cherished by all of us with admiration and respect.”

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said he learned “with deep sorrow” the passing of Aquino whom he described as “a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace and women’s empowerment.”

“Her Excellency Aquino will be remembered for her great contributions during her presidency and beyond toward democracy in the Republic of the Philippines and throughout the region,” he said.

In his own message, Rosales called on Filipinos to pause in prayer and thank God for Aquino.

“Cory Aquino was said to have wrestled with herself and conscience before deciding to offer herself as an alternative to a harsh dictatorship,” he said.

“And when finally, crowned with the people’s trust, she even suffered more when in the process of guiding the country, countless attempts were put to destabilize the people’s fledgling newly regained democracy,” he added.

Rosales said it was up to Filipinos to live up to what Aquino and her martyred husband, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., did for the nation.

“Ninoy’s sacrifice for a dream for the Filipino made Corazon C. Aquino. Cory Aquino’s simplicity and fidelity to a dream to guide the people complete the story of the Filipino people,” he said in his message.

Rosales said Aquino was both a President and a symbol of “what an authentic, truthful and honest leader was to a people whose long experience was to look for a guide who would lead them out of history’s cruel political disarray.” With a report from Agence France-Presse

Pope, other world leaders honor Cory

President Cory was known to be close to the church.

Former coup leader vs Cory salutes former commander in chief

Former coup leader vs Cory salutes former commander in chief

MANILA - A prominent military officer who took part in the bloodiest coup d'etat against President Corazon "Cory" Aquino's administration in 1989 offered a "snappy salute" to the late former president.

Detained Marines Col. Ariel Querubin, a key member of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa - Young Officers Movement – Soldiers of the Filipino People which launched the bloody 1989 coup attempt against Aquino, said he regrets that he did not have a chance to meet or shake hands with Aquino before her death last Saturday (August 1).

"At this time of national grief, and in her honor, I give my former Commander-in-Chief my snappy salute. Farewell, Mrs. President," Querubin said a statement released through his stepson and spokesman Martin Loon.

"It is no secret that I was one of those who led the coup against her administration in 1989. And I am glad that 20 years thereafter, the wounds brought about by that exercise have begun to heal. Pres. Aquino stood for freedom and democracy, ideals many of us share. With her passing, I hope that what she stood for lives on and that many, especially those in the military, will take inspiration from her values and the principles she lived by," he added in his statement.

Querubin suffered a near fatal gunshot wound in the coup attempt in 1989, described as the bloodiest and almost successful coup attempt, and was even reportedly presumed dead until found to still have a pulse.

On Mother's Day last May, Querubin said he "sent flowers and a message of prayer" to Aquino, who was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Courage and bravery

Querubin also praised Aquino for agreeing to support his group's cause during the Feb. 26, 2006 standoff at the Philippine Marines headquarters, where he allegedly called on several Marine units for an alleged to bid to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aquino was one of many political leaders who attempted to enter Fort Bonifacio grounds that evening, to offer support for Querubin's alleged move to oust Arroyo. Aquino had already joined calls for President Arroyo to resign in 2005, following allegations of cheating in the 2004 elections.

"Amidst Proclamation 1017 at that time, she (Aquino) braved the dark of the night and the anti-riot police to be one with the people in prayer. Through the years, I have learned to admire her bravery and courage very much. She was brave up to her final moments," Querubin said.

A Medal of Valor Awardee, Querubin is detained in Camp Aguinaldo, facing a mutiny charge for his alleged role in the standoff.

Querubin, former Army Scout Rangers chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, and then Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda allegedly planned to march to the EDSA Shrine and announce their withdrawal of support from Arroyo.

Cory had 'nerves of steel'

Meanwhile, former Philippine Constabulary (PC) Chief Maj. Gen. Ramon Montaño, a staunch defender of Cory Aquino during her presidency, said he admired Aquino for her bravery even during the toughest coups launched against her administration.

Montaño, who was then a ground commander of PC-Integrated National Police and head of the Metropolitan Police Force, said Aquino stayed composed during the first alleged coup attempt mounted by some groups in the military against her in July 1986. This happened just 4 months after she became president.

"The President just moved into the Palace and I was worried about her safety. We found out that she was cooking in the kitchen with teargas fumes swirling all over. She was unbothered and so calm as if her nerves were made of steel," he said.

Montaño said that Aquino remained just as calm during the "God Save the Queen" coup attempt in November 1986, as well as during a 1987 coup attempt when military rebels reached the Palace, burned the military's General Headquarters, and seized the Makati Business District for several days.

The 'Lady in Yellow'

He also described Aquino as "the picture of courage, confidence, and serenity" even during the toughest negotiations between Cabinet members and military rebels.

Montaño was one of many military officials who joined a "mutiny" against President Marcos in February 1986. He said they were afraid to go against the dictator at the time, but was heartened by former president Aquino and the crowds that lined EDSA during the famous "People Power" revolt, that sparked the end of Martial Law.

"We threw away these fears as we could feel the trust and the faith of the Filipino people in their chosen leader, President Corazon C. Aquino who inspired the whole nation to defy mighty tanks, gun ships and machine guns armed only with prayers and their faith in the Almighty," he said.

"The Lady in Yellow, then only known to the soldiers as the widow of the late Sen. [Benigno] "Ninoy" Aquino [Jr.], brought together the soldiers and the Filipino people," he said.

Montaño said that Aquino had symbolized "what is good and what is noble in the Filipino people", which became a unifying factor for many soldiers.

Former coup leader vs Cory salutes former commander in chief

It's surprising that even President Cory's enemies recognize her strength.

Fan bares Cory's message to OFWs

Fan bares Cory's message to OFWs

MANILA - Former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino was an inspiration to many Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because of her support to the country's "new heroes."

Rhoel Raymundo Mendoza was one of many OFWs who worked abroad when Aquino was president. He also worked for the Aquino family corporation, Jose Cojuangco and Sons, after graduating from the University of Santo Tomas in 1981.

Now a talent manager and graphic designer, Mendoza fondly keeps an autographed picture of Aquino, in which she sent him her "good wishes." The photo was signed in May 1986, just months after Aquino became president of the Philippines.

In an e-mail sent to ABS-CBN, Mendoza proudly shared that then President Aquino herself had conferred him the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Bagong Bayani Citation in December 1990. That night, Mendoza and his peers listened to Aquino's speech, honoring the awardees and all OFWs throughout the world.

The following is a copy of Aquino's speech that evening, sent to the "Filipino Overseas magazine" in 1995 upon Mendoza's request. In her speech, she thanked OFWs all over the world for their hard work and sacrifice for the country and their families.

"Sa mga minamahal kong kababayan,

Isang malaking kasiyahan sa akin na batiin ang libu-libong kinikilalang bagong bayani ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa.

Alam namin na kayo, bilang manggagawang Pilipino sa ibang bansa, ay nagtitiis ng ibayong lungkot, at nagsasakripisyo na na malayo sa inyong mga minamahal sa buhay. Subali't ang inyong pagpapasakit ay nakatutulong naman hindi lamang sa inyong sariling pamilya, higit din sa pagbangon ng ating ekonomiya. Taas-noong ipagmalaki ang inyong mga gawain, at buong husay at katapatan itong gampanan. Ang kahusayan at kasipagan ng mga Pilipino'y kinikilala sa buong mundo.

At habang malayo kayo sa ating bansa, sana'y huwag ninyo kalilimutan ang mga magagandang kaugalian at tradisyong Pilipino. Kami'y umaasa na ang The Overseas Filipino magazine ay magtutulay sa ating mga overseas workers na nasa iba't ibang bansa sa pagbibigay-alam sa mga pangyayari sa ating sariling bayan, pati na rin ang mayamang kaugalian at kakayahan ng Pilipino.

Patnubayan nawa kayo ng Poong Maykapal!

[signed, President Corazon C. Aquino]"

Aquino signed Executive Order No. 126, on January 30, 1998. The law reorganized the Ministry of Labor and Employment and renamed the Welfare Fund for Overseas Workers administration to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Aquino is also credited for being the first to call OFWs "heroes," during a 1988 speech she gave to Hong Kong domestic helpers. abs-cbnNEWS.com. Photos courtesy of Rhoel Raymundo Mendoza.

Fan bares Cory's message to OFWs

I didn't know it was President Corazaon Aquino who first called us OFW's as "Heroes". Thank you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

All civil servants enjoined to pray for Cory

All civil servants enjoined to pray for Cory

MANILA - The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has called on all government agencies to offer a special prayer to the late former President Corazon Aquino this month.

CSC Chairman Ricardo Saludo on Monday issued Memorandum Circular No. 25-A s. 2009, which enjoins all government workers to say the "Civil servants' prayer for the repose of the soul of former President Corazon C. Aquino" during flag-raising ceremonies on all Mondays of August.

In addition to this, Saludo also ordered that yellow and black ribbons or banners be "prominently displayed" in all government facilities.

"The Civil Service Commission joins the Aquino and Cojuangco families, the Filipino people, and our 1.3 million civil servants in deepest sorrow and solemn prayer over the passing of our former President and freedom patroness Corazon Aquino. She led our nation from the dark night of dictatorship to the bright day of democracy restored," Saludo said.

"Together with Filipino public servants everywhere, we kneel in prayer for the eternal repose of her soul where the nation's welfare and advancement has always been uppermost. And with every Filipino here and across the world, we pledge to uphold the undying democratic ideals President Aquino stood for," he added.

Civil servants, according to CSC, include all heads of constitutional bodies, departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the national and local government, government-owned and controlled corporations, and state universities and colleges.

Following is the prayer recommended by the CSC to be recited by all government workers:

Civil Servants' Prayer for the Repose of the soul of former President Corazon C. Aquino

Almighty God, we thank you for another week to faithfully and selflessly serve our people for the advancement of peace, justice and development in our land.

In living the ideals of patriotism, democracy and good governance, we are inspired by the life and work of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, who led our struggle to restore freedom in our country. We now pray for the eternal repose of her soul. Your grace and comfort will give relief and will fortify her family in this hour of pain and peril.

We pray that we may continue to be inspired by her life and ideals, especially us who spend our working days in the service of the republic. As we unite behind her in the fight for freedom, we now pray as one nation for the Almighty's mercy and grace for the eternal repose of the soul of our beloved Tita Cory.

All civil servants enjoined to pray for Cory

A special prayer for our president.