Friday, May 22, 2009
Perhaps the worst experience one can ever have is to lose a loved one in an untimely death, although death by disease is much better than death by accident. Death by accident is like a thief that comes under cover of darkness, stealing your loved one from you in the least expected moment, when your guard is down and emotions vulnerable.
Such sudden, unexpected deaths usually leave behind grieving relatives who are haunted with nagging questions like “What if..?”, “How can it happen…?” and the most compelling “Why?”.
An example is the sad fate which befell the Presidential chopper which crashed in Ifugao last April 7. Eight lives were lost that day, persons who were serving not just the President but the whole country as well. It was indeed a mournful loss, the grief of the family shared by many others.
I personally knew one of the victims, although not enough to say that I am close. I had many occasions to interact with Usec. Malou Frostrom owing to the nature of our jobs. That’s why when I first heard that she was among the passengers of the ill-fated chopper, I had a reason to give the news a little bit more attention.
The circumstances of the crash gave rise to questions as to how it could have happened considering that the area has a reputation of being inhospitable to flying during the time of the day that it took off. The accident could have been avoided if prudence was exercised, especially that there was a practice among aviators not to fly out of Loakan after 3:00PM.
This practice, which at that time was unclear to the public if it was actually a policy, had a reason to be in place and the nagging question in my mind was “why did the chopper take off and who authorized the flight?” The question was coming from the purpose of reviewing aviation policy and avoiding future accidents.
Media outfits carried the questions that I had as news reports which in turn earned the displeasure of Malacanang. I reacted to the tirade of the Press Secretary through my blog and subsequently delivered a privilege speech to call for an inquiry in the House of Representatives.
The inquiry was also given reason to be conducted even by Ms. Marichu Villanueva, a member of the Malacanang Press Corps, who wrote an article entitled “After Grief, Let Justice Be Served” in the April 24 edition of the Philippine Star. In it, she wrote “This sad incident should have ended there. But apparently there’s still a crying need to hold somebody, or some people accountable for this fatal chopper accident. Such sentiments continuously poured. But whether these sentiments are valid or not, this incident must not be just left to God’s will.”
It is no wonder then that my father, Senator Rodolfo Biazon had the same thing on his mind when he called for an inquiry in the upper chamber. Although we did not coordinate on this, perhaps he countless times that he has mentored me in my job as a legislator has resulted in us thinking along the same lines.
But it seems that our line of thinking---that the accident should be thoroughly looked into in order to get the whole picture of how the accident happened in order to prevent its reoccurrence---is not shared by all, especially Malacanang.
The inquiry in the Senate was already scheduled but the committee was asked by the Senate leadership to postpone indefinitely owing to a request from Malacanang on the grounds that “they are not yet ready.”
In the House of Representatives, the hearing was scheduled to proceed with me as chair of the hearing. While we were preparing for the hearing, the committee staff was contacted by some family members of some of the victims who expressed interest in the inquiry.
At first, I thought they were going to object to the hearing, which seemed to be the line of Malacanang. But I was surprised to be informed that the families wanted the hearing to proceed because they wanted to know the whole truth about how the accident which claimed the lives of their loved ones happened.
One of the staff in the House secretariat was a classmate of one of the crash victims and is close to the family. She told me that the wife of one of the casualties is really distraught, owing to the fact her husband was so dedicated to his job that his time with the family was limited and with his death, he is now forever parted from his wife and children. She is simply at a loss on how to live without him.
The House staff went on to tell me that what was really painful for the wife was that as her husband was leaving that day for the flight, she had asked him to stay and let the team go without him. She pleaded with him twice, but saying that he had a duty to perform, he left to board the chopper. Little did he know that that was the last time he would be talking to his wife.
I also received an email from someone who claimed to be a relative of one of the pilots. He said that he too, wants to know what really happened that fateful day. He said he knew his relative to be a good pilot and not one to taking risks.
Confident with the knowledge that the families themselves are interested in finding out the whole story about the ill-fated flight, I advised the committee secretariat that the hearing will proceed as scheduled.
On the morning of the hearing itself, which was scheduled at 1:30PM that afternoon, I was requested by the Chairman of the Oversight Committee on Dangerous Drugs to stand in for him in a hearing of his committee. I acceded to his request, since the hearing of his committee was scheduled at 10:00AM.
While I was in the Dangerous Drugs Committee hearing, I received a text message from the staff of the Defense Committee, telling me that they needed to talk to me before we start the hearing on the chopper crash. I sensed that there was a problem, but I had a task at hand, so I set it aside for awhile and tried to finish the hearing on time.
Due to extended questions by congressmen, we weren’t able to conclude the hearing on time, so I was late going to the Defense Committee. Before entering the hearing room, I was met by the committee staff who told me that they received a message from Malacanang.
Before he even told me what the message was, I already knew what it was. Malacanang was requesting that the hearing be postponed, since they were “not yet ready”, especially that they had just observed the 40th day of the deaths. The invited guests from the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were not going to attend.
I was also shown by the committee staff a letter from the Department of Defense informing the committee that the officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not be able to attend the hearing since they were not able to secure permission from the Office of the President. But the AFP sent officers as resource persons for the bill proposing an increase in quarters allowance, since I also included it as part of the agenda for that afternoon’s hearing.
It became apparent that there is an effort to prevent the inquiry into the chopper crash. Even prior to the scheduled hearings in the Senate and the House, there were steps which seemed to be designed to stop the inquiry.
When I delivered my privilege speech on the crash, I moved for the inquiry citing several policy questions which I believed should be answered in order to enhance aviation safety. Although these questions were brought about by the crash of the presidential chopper, the adoption or modification of policies will benefit not just the aviation sector but the public as well.
Normally, privilege speeches are referred to the Committee on Rules in order to determine which committee it will be referred to for action. The one who delivered the speech is invited to explain the purpose of the speech and the action desired by the one who delivered it.
But in the case of my speech, it was taken up and acted on by the Committee on Rules without giving me the opportunity to explain the speech, although it was already clearly stated in my discourse.
The Committee on Rules sent my speech to the archives, even though the speech moved for an inquiry into military and civilian aviation policy and a further motion of referring the speech to the Committee on Defense.
When I came to know about the action on my speech, I decided to raise it as in issue in plenary. But some colleagues, members of the Committee on Rules, offered to just reverse the committee’s action and have it immediately referred to the Committee on Defense. Hence, I was able to schedule the hearing. Sadly, it seems Malacanang is taking steps to prevent it from happening.
After learning from the committee staff the request from Malacanang and the non-appearance of the invited guests from the PMS, PSG and AFP, I peeked inside the hearing room and saw the guests from the private sector, aviation experts and civilian pilots. The families of two of the victims were also there, although they were not officially invited. They came on their own volition, in the desire to learn the truth.
There were also two members of congress there, known close allies of Malacanang. At that point, I had to make a quick decision. Either I push through with the hearing or postpone. If I push through, I already anticipated the possibility of someone questioning the quorum (there was none) which would result in the adjournment of the committee hearing, and waste the time and effort of those who were present. On the other hand, if I postpone, everyone will go home without accomplishing anything.
After a quick consideration, I decided to cut the agenda into two. I would proceed with the hearing on the Quarters Allowance Bill, and just take up the chopper crash as a consultation, which cannot be questioned on the basis of quorum. It would be an activity purely at my discretion as chair. We will still be able to ask questions about the crash minus the possibility of the proceedings being challenged.
I then convened the committee and announced what will happen in the proceedings. The moment that I announced that we were not going to take up the chopper crash in a hearing but rather in a consultation, I noticed the families, who were seated at the back of the hearing room, animatedly talking among themselves looking agitated. A couple of minutes later, they all stood up and walked out of the room.
I immediately instructed my staff to try to catch up to them and explain to them that we will still discuss the matter, only that it will be in a consultation instead of a committee hearing. My staff was able to catch up but when he tried to explain, they did not want to hear any of it.
They were extremely disappointed. They had been waiting for the hearing, even skipping lunch, to find out what they can about the circumstances of their relative’s death. I can understand their frustration. Perhaps they even regard me with displeasure. But I don’t take it against them if they got angry at what happened, although I had all the intention of proceeding with asking questions about the crash. Maybe this is not the first time that their quest for answers were met with a blank wall.
The consultation proceeded in spite of the absence of the victims’ families. The information provided by the resource persons---aviation security experts, air accident investigation experts and pilots---all proved to be important and crucial in understanding the crash. It provided sufficient preliminary information that may be used when we finally conduct the official inquiry into the chopper crash.
What bothers me now is that there seems to be an effort to sweep this issue under the rug and relegate it to a forgotten memory, in spite of the fact that the families themselves are straining to find the truth. In addition, the whole circumstance surrounding the crash should be revealed in order to prevent the recurrence of accidents.
But I have this feeling that the next time I pursue this inquiry, it will once again be met with resistance. If that happens, then maybe I might just have to accept the reality that any effort will be in vain. It just bothers me that the families of the victims themselves are seeking the truth and it appears that I have failed them in their quest.
The truth may never be found out and just remain in the bosom of the cloud-covered mountains of Ifugao. All I can do at this time is offer my prayers for the departed and the families they left behind.
Monday, May 18, 2009
About two years ago, I joined the advocacy against the spread of cervical cancer in the Philippines.
The Cervical Cancer Prevention Network (CECAP) of the UP-PGH Cancer Institute, led the efforts to save the Filipina women from the life-threatening disease and invited me to join their nationwide campaign and programs.
My district became one of the pilot areas for their programs, which I supported 100% with funding, moral support and even my time and energy by going with them to various municipalities and cities around the country to share the experience in my district and explain how government officials can join the advocacy and programs.
Last year I also joined the Tour of Hope in northern Luzon as one of the speakers in their symposium at the stops of their bike run from Vigan to Subic.
This year the Tour of Hope will be in Southern Luzon, starting from my district in Muntinlupa City all the way to Naga City in Camarines Sur.
In recognition of my participation in the program these past couple of years, I was hailed as an Honorary Woman by the CECAP Network and the SM Women's Committee.
This poster, produced by CECAP and GSK, declares the Muntinlupa City's full participation in the program, with not just my office as congressman but also the city government led by Mayor Aldrin San PEdro.
Shown in the poster are my wife Trina (center), the mayor's wife Leah (right) and the chair of the Health Committee in the City Council, Coun. Amy Patdu-Labios (left). Together, they lead the grassroots implementation of the program and make sure that Muntinlupa's women have accessible service to protect them against the number 2 killer cancer among FIlipino women.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It’s 11:17 PM and I just stepped into our home. It’s been a long and tiring day which started with meetings around the metro before going to the House of Representatives for the session which starts at 4:00 PM.
I was scheduled to interpellate Cong. Junie Cua, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, on Committee Report No. 1992 regarding House Joint Resolution 24. The measure proposes to authorize the President to make adjustments in the job classification and compensation of government employees.
When the deliberations started at around 5:00 PM, I was number six in the list of interpellators. I patiently waited for my turn, listening intently to the deliberations, which also helped me fine tune my own set of questions. I crossed out those in my list which had already been asked by the other congressmen. I came up with new ones based on the answers of the sponsor.
While the measure is proposing for an increase in the compensation of all government employees, there are those who are not satisfied, in the belief that they are entitled to more in order to make their compensation at par with other public sector employees who have higher salary grades in spite of the fact that they have lower qualifications.
The public school teachers are clamoring for a bigger increase because a public school teacher, whose entry qualifications require a college degree and a board certification, has a salary which is lower than an enlisted personnel in the AFP who is only a high school graduate.
To some, time seems so slow in the Session Hall. Not everything that is discussed there is as interesting as the screaming headlines of newspapers usually report. But to others, time flies as if you’re having fun. Well, it’s not really fun. But it’s interesting. Before I knew it, it was already 8:00 PM.
There were two more interpellators before my turn. But the congressmen who were still in the hall (the patient few) had an agreement that it was time to call it a day. Everyone was already weary from all the debates, especially since the day started with committee hearings from morning until afternoon.
After the session was adjourned, I immediately rushed out to go to the White House in Cubao, where a party was ongoing in celebration of Senator Mar’s birthday. I was already dead tired, but I wanted to greet the senator personally.
There were a lot of guests when I got there, my fellow members of the Liberal party, some form other parties, from the private sector and prominent civil society members. Of course, the bride-to-be of the president-to-be was there and they looked the sweet couple that they are. It was actually my first time in the White House, and I marveled at its simple elegance. For someone who grew up in military camp in a proletarian life, it was a privilege.
After some socializing, I couldn’t resist the desire to go home and rest. It was indeed a full day. Besides, I still had a 7:00 AM breakfast meeting the following day. Mercifully, the drive home at that time was not like the usual crawl during rush hour traffic.
So I step into to my house, drawn by the prospect of taking a cold shower, lying down in bed and in the privacy of my bedroom, just wear my shorts and go shirtless, and cuddle with my wife. Ahhh…there’s no place like home….
But just as I was about to go upstairs, my cellphone receives a text message. I expect it to be a message from my wife, probably asking what time I’ll be home. But when I look at the screen, it shows an unknown number, meaning that it is a number not saved in my directory.
It is not uncommon for me to receive text messages or even calls from unknown numbers. Believe it or not, my cell phone number has remained unchanged for almost ten years now. I freely give it away, even to my constituents. That’s why my directory has over three thousand entries, although I have already lost hundreds or a thousand more when I changed cell phone units over the years. But the number remains the same.
I open the message. It’s from one of my constituents, and it read : “gud pm po cong. Biazon sna po m2lungan u po me mkpgtrbho snap o m2lungan u po aku kht anu po ok lng”.
Again, it’s not an uncommon message that I receive. Specially nowadays, many seek help regarding employment, scholarships, medical assistance and a host of many other personal concerns. It’s my barometer of the state of living of my constituents, perhaps even the country.
But no matter how often or how many messages of such nature I receive (I receive no less than 20 such messages a day, filling up my inbox and slowing down my phone), I can’t seem to get used to it. I still get emotionally burdened by each and every message, because I believe that once it has come to my knowledge, I feel obligated to do something about it.
Sometimes, messages come at a time that is supposed to be “my time”, but I still feel obligated to address the concern. For example, one Sunday (which for me is family day not just for me but also for my driver so I drive on that day) a constituent sent me a message asking for help in getting his child out of the hospital. His child was already well and he didn’t want another day to be added to the bill which was already beyond his capacity to pay. Usually, my office already has a procedure in helping constituents in such a situation.
But since it was a Sunday, my office was closed. I was not in my district and was visiting my in laws in Manila. But to simply say I could not help because there was no office and I was not in my district was something that I couldn’t bring myself to do. The call for me help already reached me. What am I to do?
It was actually not a really difficult decision to make. I drove back to Muntinlupa to meet up with my constituent and help him get his child discharged from the hospital. After that, I went back to my inlaws’ house where I left my wife and kids.
And so it is that I receive this message at this time of the night. I can only wonder what kind of worrying this person was doing in texting me at this time of the night. But the burden also becomes heavy on me since I don’t know how to help him with his request. During these times, I also know for a fact that many companies have frozen hiring, some even retrenching their employees.
As I now lie in bed, my mood is not as I was hoping for. Relaxation is now elusive, with deep thought on what I can do to help this person now occupying my mind. As we discuss proposed salary increases in Congress in which some are unsatisfied with the increase they are about to receive, there are those out there who don’t even have a salary to rely on.
Such a difficult world, indeed.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
For ten days (not consecutive), I posted in my Facebook status what my thoughts are on leadership. These leadership nuggets are all borne from my personal beliefs and experience, although some were derived from lessons I learned from mentors, books and other leaders.
As part of my reflection and hopefully, my own development as someone in a leadership position, I intend to come up with 30 leadership nuggets. That's one a day, which may serve as a daily reminder on how a leader should conduct himself.
The reactions on comments to posts I made in the past several days serve as confirmation to the relevance of the nuggets I came up with. I also received a couple of requests for me to post a compilation for their better appreciation. So here it is:
The first 10 Leadership Nuggets:
1. Leadership is not about claiming credit for what went right but accepting responsibility for what went wrong.
2. Good leaders lead with open ears, not with closed fists.
3. Leadership is not the exercise of power over the people but the endeavor to empower the people.
4. More than giving orders and direction, it is the function of leadership to inspire and motivate.
5. The best legacy a leader can leave behind is not the string of accomplishments he has but an army of leaders he has raised to take over when he’s gone.
6. The ability to lead goes hand in hand with the willingness to learn. One cannot be a good leader if one is not willing to learn even from those one leads.
7. Leaders should be masters over their own faults and weaknesses, not over their followers.
8. The first thing a leader should realize upon assuming leadership is that the position is temporary.
9. Leadership and pride are a dangerous combination. When a leader believes that he is the only key to success, he actually becomes the cause of failure.
10. In the exercise of power, an intelligent leader knows when to start and a determined leader keeps on going; but a wise leader knows when to stop.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
It is exactly one year before the country once again goes to the polls to choose the nation’s next leaders. But unlike previous elections, there seems to be a heightened interest in the polls at this early time. Usually, it is just the politicians and aspirants who get excited about the elections one year before E-Day. But now, the entire country, cutting across all sectors, is buzzing with activity in preparation for the elections.
In way, it is good. The change in politics that we have been longing for in the past may actually happen in 2010. The people’s increased interest in the elections will hopefully lead to increased participation in the process, from voter education all the way to vote protection during the canvassing of votes.
It is about time we end the vicious cycle of voter-apathy-then-complain-about-elected-officials and move on to a higher level of national political maturity. We should stare the ugly monster in the face and slay it.
One good step in the right direction was the recently held Leadership Forum in the Ateneo and aired over Cable Television in the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). The forum provided an opportunity for the people to get a glimpse of who the possible candidates are, what their platforms are, how they express themselves and many other facets that we need to know in order to make a wise decision.
I think with the one year left before elections, more of those forums should be held, and it should be done even at the local level. Let the potential candidates come out of the woodwork and present themselves.
In the past, people frowned at such “early campaigning”. One of the changes we should do now is to shed that hypocrisy. What’s wrong with aspirants coming out in the open? Why do aspirants always have to lie with “It’s too early to talk about elections” when they are asked if they are running one year before the elections? Isn’t better that the people find out who are those seeking public office in order for them to know more about those who will ask for their votes?
The result of that pretentious practice is that people only get the information about the candidates during the official campaign period, which is actually superficial. For a national candidate, he only has ninety days to cover the entire country and present himself for voter scrutiny. That’s why the methods are mostly high-impact, attention-getting propaganda instead of having real depth.
We should take advantage of the heightened interest in change among the people and make this one year period an extended-getting-to-know-you pre-campaign activity. This will help the people make a sober, logical and well-thought out decision come 2010.
It is just too bad that not all the aspirants were present in the Leadership Forum. But this is just the first and it is hoped that there will be others that will be held. Perhaps those who shy away or purposely avoid appearing in such forums should already be stricken off the list by the electorate since they are not willing to subject themselves to public scrutiny.
In addition, it would also be better if the forum is made available to a bigger audience. Perhaps the networks will consider airing the leadership forums on free tv instead of just a cable channel. The majority of Filipinos still do not have cable in their homes. They should also relax copyrights on those forums, so that it may be reproduced and further expand the viewership. Voter education advocates and civic groups can conduct screenings of those forums.
As I write this, one day has been deducted from the one-year countdown before E-Day. What we do with the remaining days may turn out to be more crucial than that one day when everyone is equal regardless of religion, ethnicity, dialect, income or sex ----each person with one vote each. IF change is going to happen on May 11, 2010, it has to begin now.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I can say that I am a beneficiary of that proverb, since in the time that I have spent in public service, I have always heard good things said about my father whenever I am introduced as his son. My own entry into politics was made easier because of what people say as the good name of my father which I inherited from him.
By keeping his name untarnished, I inherited much more than any material wealth or riches can bestow upon a man. It opened doors for me and even earned kind words for the name I carry. It makes me proud to say that I am a son of Rodolfo Biazon.
Although sometimes, I get puzzled looks when I say that I am a son of the general-turned-senator. Some people actually voice out the question that runs in their minds when they meet me—“Anak ka ba talaga ni Senator Biazon? (Are you really the son of Senator Biazon?).
Not that they don’t think I deserve to carry the name of my dad. They follow up the question with “Bakit hindi mo kamukha?” (Why don’t you look like him?). No, I don’t feel insulted. And neither does my father. We already have a standard answer for that question.To that question, I immediately answer “Mana sa nanay” (I got my looks from my mom).
My mother says she contributed to the improvement of the Biazon bloodline when she and my dad united. My sister was 2nd runner up in the 1985 Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant. My brother was recruited into show business (but was stopped by my parents to urge him to concentrate in his studies). So my mom has a point.
But in fairness to my father, he was a looker when he was young, otherwise my mother wouldn’t have fallen for him. He was the classic pinoy hunk---tall, dark and handsome.It is the ravages of time and the years spent in the field which gave him the wrinkles, the darkened skin and thinned hair which are a contrast to my smooth (as of now) and light skin and thick hair (I hope it lasts) which make people ask that question.
As a public official, I attribute many of my qualities to the principles, lessons and advice that I got from my father. If there is anyone that I can say is my idol as a public servant, it is undoubtedly my father. I have given him that honor in every opportunity that I can.
But I am the fruit of the union of two individuals. Biologically, I am composed of elements coming from my father and mother. While I attribute some of my characteristics from my father, I definitely inherited more from my mother than just my looks.
Much of what I am as a person I got from my mom. While I was growing up, much of my father’s time was spent out in the field, where he was assigned to risk his life in defense of the Philippine way of life. During those times he was away, my mom performed the role of both mother and father, raising us three siblings sheltered from the bad influence from society but at the same time exposing us to life’s responsibilities and prepare us to meet its challenges.
We never had helpers back then. My mom ran the household singlehandedly ever since she and my dad got married and had kids. We had household chores as we were growing up. Understandably, back then we felt we didn’t have to do it.
But now I am glad that was how she ran the house and raised us. Actually, that was her prophecy after she would lecture to us. She would usually say, after her litany, “Pasasalamatan nyo rin ako sa sermon ko baling araw” (Someday you will thank me for my sermons). How true!
She taught me the value of doing work in excellence. She would ask us to repeat something which did not meet her standards. For example, when we sweep the floor, it is not enough that we sweep the areas within sight. She expects us to move furniture in order to sweep the areas underneath, leaving no floor unswept. She would say “makapal na alikabok sa ilalim ng kama mo, baka tubuan na ng kamot yan” (The dust under your bed is so thick cassava could grow in it).
I learned from her that time is precious. To this day, whatever time I slept the night before, I would always wake up early at around 6:00 AM. Even if I partied on a Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning, I would still wake up that early on Saturday.
It is a habit from the days when we had to wake up early to do chores before we went to school. When I was in grade school, one of my chores was to scrub the floor using the bunot (coconut husk) before I went to school. This was an everyday chore. Even if there were no visible signs of scratches, smudges or dirt on the floor.
Nope, we didn’t have an electric floor polisher at that time. We only had it at a later time, when I was already in high school. Still, we had to polish the floor everyday. And that meant waking up early everyday. I remember her waking us up to the tune of “Gising na! Tanghali na! Alas-syete na!” (Wake up! It’s late already! It’s 7:00 AM!) if we slept beyond the appointed wake up time. But you know, it paid off. Because it taught me that time waits for no man, and if there is something that needs to be done, I don’t let time overtake me and I do the task at hand as early as I can.
My mother taught me how to spend wisely. It is she who ingrained in me the difference between a need and a want. I remember the time when I was around seven years old and the latest toy was a Six Million Dollar man action figure. It had movable limbs and hole in the back of its head where you can peer through and see the world in Steve Austin’s bionic eyes.
One day we were in Cartimar and I saw the toy displayed in front of a store. I so dearly wanted that toy but my mom wouldn’t buy it for me for the reason that it was expensive. She also said that it wasn’t my birthday and neither was it Christmas so there was no reason for me to buy a toy. I tried to use that age-old manipulative technique that kids, especially the bunso (youngest in a siblings), do to get what they want---I cried and had a tantrum.
She stuck to her decision not to buy the toy. She told me that I could only buy a toy if there was a special occasion such as my birthday, Christmas, or if I did well in school. Besides, she said, even if there was a special occasion, I could only buy something that we could afford, not one that will necessitate us cutting expenditure on things such as food and clothing. Perhaps that’s why many of gifts were clothes.
I am thankful that she maintained steel nerves and resisted my tearful pleadings to buy the toy. Now that I have children of my own, I know the value of steering them away from being spoiled brats.
Many lessons were learned from that episode. Aside from knowing the difference between a need and a want, I also learned the value of money. She told us that she had to make sure we spent our money only on the important stuff because my father was out there in the field risking his life just so that we have food on the table, clothes on our back and a roof over our heads. So shouldn’t spend the money on unnecessary things. “Hindi nya pinipitas ang pera sa puno” (He’s not picking money off trees), she would say.
It also taught me that in life, you don’t get everything that you want. I learned how to handle disappointment and that if you feel life is not giving you chances, all you need to do is move on and look for the next opportunity. Best of all, I learned that contentment is the key to happiness and found appreciation for whatever I have or given to me.
There are countless life lessons I learned from my mother, all of which I am truly grateful for her. Whatever I am right now, I have her to thank for raising me the way she did. The teachings I received from her I pass on to my own children now. It is a heritage and inheritance from her that I will forever treasure. Much, much more than any world riches, I desire the life lessons she has given me. Along with the good name, what else could anyone want?
I give tribute to you, Mama. In front of God and in front of the world, I give you the appreciation and love that a son could give.
I love you, Mama! Happy Mothers’ Day!
Friday, May 08, 2009
At 4:00 PM, the plenary session begins, which usually goes on until around 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening.
So what do congressmen do after the session and hearing days? Those are the days that are spent with the constituents, catering to their needs and delivering service.
Time with the constituents means going around in the communities for various activities such as consultations, inauguration of projects, visits to funerals and wakes, weddings, baptisms, fiestas, sports events, etc. Things to do and go to never run out.
Congressmen also have district offices where constituents may go to for services. People go to the district offices for medical assistance, application for scholarships, help for problems in the community association, housing and many other varieties of personal and collective concerns.
I asked my staff to take photos of of a typical day in my district office to show what it looks like on an ordinary day that I'm there.
Of course at that time, most of the world is still asleep. My kids were still snugly in their beds, sleeping the sleep of those who have no worries in life. With envy for their peaceful slumber, I decided to let them be and just look for other things to do to pass the time.
Unable to go back to sleep, I decided to turn on the television. Thank goodness for cable. I remember back in 1991, when my first born son was still a few months old and somehow chose to be awake during the unholy hours of the day, when I would be up at around 3:00 AM to take care of him. My wife and I took turns in caring for our baby, with me taking the 3:00 AM to 7:00 AM shift before I left the house for the day.
Back then, before the introduction of cable and 24 hour TV in the Philippines, being up at that time of the day gave you the feeling of being alive in a dead world, pretty much like Will Smith in I Am Legend. For those who lived at an earlier era, it would be like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man.
Going back to the present, I switched on the TV and flipped through the many channels (most of which I don’t watch but still pay for), not really watching anything in particular. I was really just passing the time, trying to get back to sleep. My wife was sleeping soundly so I didn’t want to wake her up. She needs it. When I feel asleep the night before, she was still working on something in her laptop, since she’s really a night person and usually goes to bed late.
As I was going for my Nth round of all the channels available in my Skycable account, I landed on one of the early morning shows on local TV. Pretty and handsome hosts all jolly and perky this early in the morning. I begin to wonder what their life must be like, probably waking up just a few hours after midnight, trudge to work and appear that energetic and pleasant. Hmmm….nope, I wouldn’t want their job.
Anyway, as expected, the show’s host started talking about Manny Pacquiao, since he was scheduled to arrive today. Along with the hype of his arrival are peripheral stories, one of which is Martin Nievera’s controversial singing of the Philippine National Anthem.
Indeed, it sparked a debate on whether or not what he did was right or wrong. Of course, if we consider the law, it was wrong. But some say the singer was just exercising his artistic right to perform the anthem in his own interpretation. Whatever.
As far as I’m concerned, I love the national anthem in the tempo and melody which Julian Felipe intended it to be. It evokes a spirit of nationalism and pride in me whenever I hear the Lupang Hinirang in the tempo of a march, especially if it is played by a marching band.
In the same manner that I am excited in hearing Bizarre Love Triangle as performed by New Order, the original performer, rather than the one performed by Frente, the remake, I am stirred more in hearing the Lupang Hinirang in the original, martial tempo than the other versions that I have heard it performed.
I do not see the point of singing the national anthem in any other manner than the one Julian Felipe intended it to be. To me, it’s like singing the funeral song in disco beat. It’s simply not what it’s supposed to be. For me, the lyrics of the national anthem is appropriately matched with the martial tempo, in that the song speaks about a nation’s pride and bravery. But that’s just me.
I do respect artists’ right of artistic expression. So I’m not pushing for Martin Nievera to be crucified. But there is a law and someone has the responsibility to impose it, which happens to be the National Historical Institute. And so they have spoken.
Going back to the morning show and Manny Pacquiao, the hosts continued to talk about the Lupang Hinirang brouhaha, and segue into a report on what Manny Pacquiao has to say about the controversy:
Reporter: “Manny, ano ang tingin mo sa kontrobersya tungkol sa pagkanta ni Martin Nievera ng Lupang Hinirang?”
Manny Pacquiao: “Ok lang naman. Tingin ko marami lang naiinggit at gustong pumapel kaya binatikos siya.”
I don’t know if Manny knows that it was the National Historical Institute which first raised the issue of how Martin Nievera sang the national anthem, but I doubt if officials at the NHI are envious of Martin Nievera and secretly wished they were the ones who performed that night in Las Vegas. Besides, isn’t it their duty to keep history intact and make sure that our heritage and culture is not mangled beyond recognition by pop culture?
(Sigh)…I switch the channel.
By the way, he’s running for congress.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
While I appreciate the President’s move to show that her administration is acting on political killings, she may have been ill-advised on the proposal to tap the Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as the Pork Barrel, to build up the reward fund. Either Malacanang has forgotten the provision of law which prescribes how the PDAF is supposed to be spent, or they are deliberately shifting the attention of the people on political killings to the lawmakers.
The General Appropriations Act, which authorizes the expenditure of the PDAF, prescribes that the PDAF shall only be spent on the priority development program which lists the following as the only authorized expenditures:
5. Water Supply
6. Financial Assistance to Local Government Units for Pro-Poor Programs
7. Public Works
9. Peace and Order for the purchase of fire trucks, patrol cars & fire/police stations
11. Forest Management
12. Historical Sites
The provision of the General Appropriations Act which prescribes how the pork barrel is to spent may be viewed here.
Reward money is not included in the authorized expenditures for the pork barrel. That’s the law. The president’s advisers are either not well versed with the General Appropriations Act or are deliberately diverting the burden of coming up with the solution to the problem on the legislators while making it appear that the President is doing something about it.
But the proposal is not at all bad. In order to pursue what the President initiated, Congress may pass a law which will create the reward fund and appropriate the necessary funds to make it a reality.
I already have a bill filed in Congress creating the Rewards for Information on Concerning Terrorism which not only appropriates the necessary amount but also prescribes guidelines on how it will be disbursed and who will disburse the fund. Such rewards should also be covered by accountability in order to avoid controversies on how it is given out. I will file a similar bill specifically for Reward for Information on Political Killings or RIP-Kill Bill.
This should be the response of Congress to the initiative of the President. I am hoping that she will support this and call on administration lawmakers to support the bill.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I was invited to be an in-studio guest at radio station DZMM one Sunday afternoon. My 2nd and 3rd sons, Anton and Ino, asked where I was going and when I told them, they asked to come along.
The people at the station were delighted at the two, since they behaved very well in the studio, just sitting in one corner not making any fuss for the whole hour I was interviewed.
After the interview, we had some snacks then went home. A day with my sons that I will forever treasure.