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Tag Archive | "PNoy"

On Epalwatch (And Why It’s A No-Win Situation Sometimes)

Epal: a common practice among public officers, whether elected or appointed, to append their names to public works projects which were either funded or facilitated through their office.Epalwatch

Case in point:

Epal - Epalwatch - Jobo Rice

I spy yet another Magsaysay… sigh.

Instances like this are pretty clear-cut. In the midst of relief operations, their face is plastered all over the truck, as if to announce “Hey, you undeserving peon! Gaze upon your salvation that is I, Jobo Jobo. For I am Jobo Jobo! People call me Jobo Jobo! Gaze, I say. Gaaaaazzzzeee!” Then there are cases where people get even more blatant, like this:

Epal - Epalwatch - Sardines

Oh, screw you.

The definition from Epalwatch was very clear. It’s all about people who put their name and face to projects, goods, and services to claim credit, with the obvious intention of leveraging themselves for the next elections. Well before campaign period, you’d see faces on sardines, stickers, tarps, everything short of a big, honking billboard, in an attempt to grab your attention — and votes.

Billboard Epal


Epalwatch is a worthy cause. It keeps public servants on their toes and keeps them from willfully using their position of power to spend public funds in an effort to advertise themselves for re-election well before they even file their candidacy. It helps other politicians from making a name for themselves at the expense of genuine public service.  I am also a writer for Blogwatch (the group behind Epalwatch), and I agree with the objectives of Epalwatch in principle.

However, in an attempt to stamp out this epal-ing phenomenon, overzealous advocates of the Epalwatch movement seem to have resorted to calling out anyone who is seen doing any kind of public service. This may do more harm than good, because even sincerely well-meaning politicians would fear having their name besmirched just because they want to help.

And yes, that includes the president: the very guy people frequently castigate for being lazy and doing nothing. Now, we’re criticizing him for doing something.

The man assured us of devastation. Looks like he finally got something right.

The man assured us of devastation. Looks like he finally got something right.

PNoy can’t win. Not that I even like the guy, really. I don’t. But a mere four days before the unexpected monsoon flooding, a columnist was asking where Noynoy was. When PNoy declared that he likes keeping a low profile during tragedies so that he doesn’t look like he’s milking tragedy for political glad-handing, he was criticized for it relentlessly.

Booooo! Do something!

Booooo! Do something!

Yet, now that he makes an effort to actually go out there and do something, he catches flak for it, too. What do we really want?

Booooo! Stop doing something!

Booooo! Stop doing something!

Meanwhile, Dick Gordon, a man who, in 2009, allegedly delayed distribution of relief goods during Ondoy so he could deliver a speech, got nearly universal praise for his efforts this time. The difference: as far as we know, he is not running for anything this time.

Dick Gordon typhoon relief

He also gets badass points for that ride.

There is no question Dick Gordon was doing an excellent job with rescue operations, and we know him to be the kind who is all business. He has very little room for glad-handing or waving around to people, even when he was running. But that’s Dick Gordon. Not everyone else can be as to-the-point as he is and get away with it. I would give nearly everything just to have Dick Gordon as a Comelec Commissioner. Any excuse to call him “Commissioner Gordon” would be awesome.

In contrast, PNoy and the other people who went with him were slammed non-stop for doing essentially the same thing Gordon was doing: helping out. Unlike Lanete Sardines or Jobo Rice, there were no stickers or paraphernalia in the goods PNoy and company distributed. Furthermore, surely you can’t expect them to go out there and wear luchador masks to remain anonymous, or be surly as they go about their business, nor can you expect people to not take pictures of them as they go about their business. And even if they did, you can bet they’d have been criticized for it, too.

Because these people are who they are, they simply can’t help anonymously, unless they are not physically there to help. By now, we know that isn’t enough, since that was exactly how PNoy claims to have been conducting himself earlier on. In fact, with all the emphasis on PNoy’s supposed photo-mongering, why did nobody take notice of this picture?

Mar Roxas, photobombing only like Mar Roxas can.

Mar Roxas, photobombing only like Mar Roxas can.

That sure doesn’t look like grandstanding to me at all, and has got to be one of the most un-glamorous shots of the president I’ve ever seen. Despite that, people ignored this photo in favor of others that gave them the opportunity to weave a more lurid narrative about our president. While that may be their right, they should at least ask themselves, is this fair?

There are so many valid things to criticize PNoy about. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged my fair share of criticism against him, too. However, his actions during this flood would not be one of those things.

Let’s go back to Epalwatch’s own definition of what it means to be an “epal.” When did PNoy or any of his group “append their names to public works projects which were either funded or facilitated through their office?” The definition did not cover the actions of PNoy and company! Was there a single sardine can there with Risa Hontiveros’s mug plastered on it? Were they distributing “Ruffy Rice” while Ruffy Biazon was reminding people to not forget him in 2013? Or was it simply a case of overzealous people trying to find political drama in the middle of tragedy, instead of simply accepting the service rendered by PNoy and company at face value for now?

Really now. What was the alternative for these people? What could they have possibly done that would have resulted in people saying that they were really just trying to help? We all know that if Dick Gordon mentioned something about running for public office again, there would have been a bunch of people attacking him for helping out, too. Do we seriously want to put political service in such a quandary?

Maybe they really were angling themselves politically. I don’t know; I’m just a mentalist, not a psychic. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they were helping people, and only in stretching Epalwatch’s own definition beyond what it actually states can tongues even begin wagging, which implies one of two things:

  1. Either Epalwatch made a mistake in defining what it means to be “epal,” or
  2. The response to PNoy and company was simply a cynical, knee-jerk reaction to politicians in general, no matter what they do.

Or both. Probably both. It seems that as netizens, we shoot first, ask questions later. Cops get the same kind of bad press, and yet here they are, still reminding us why a lot of them still have jobs.

Cops are generally nicer to pedestrians than motorists, though.

Cops are generally nicer to pedestrians than motorists, though.

Am I saying Epalwatch should stop doing what they do? Of course not. I won’t even tell them to tone their zeal down, for that matter. That’s their call, and I myself would be quick to share something to their cause if and when I see politicians clearly crossing the line. All I hope is that just as willing as they are to criticize public officials who grandstand, they would also be willing to accept criticism when they jump the gun. I’d give the same advice to even the sincerest of politicians: don’t stop doing what you’re doing to help, no matter how much Epalwatch may question your motives. The hope is that as both sides push and pull and argue over what it means to be epal, people in general become more critical-minded and don’t just jump the gun and assume the worst in politicians when they try to do something.

There will be time for finger-pointing afterwards. I just don’t think we needed much of that in the middle of the tragedy itself.I think Dick Gordon himself said it best, actually:

Dick Gordon

Dick Gordon as the voice of reason? Now I’ve seen everything.

Oh, by the way. Has anyone heard a peep about what Vice President Binay was doing during the monsoon? Because I didn’t, and I normally get five text messages at a time whenever he does something for this country.

I’m just sayin’.

If you wish to be more than just a Patriotic Filipino® and actually help out in the Filipino’s time of need, you can go here for a handy list.

Posted in PoliticsComments (5)

Why PNoy’s SONA is Not a Triumph for the RH Bill

Yesterday, SONA day, a few of us Freethinkers marched down Commonwealth as pregnant PNoys—enormous face masks, pillows for bellies, juggling plastic babies—to allude to the president’s negligence towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Our banner read, “PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na.” (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now.)

We wanted to point out that if our president could literally get pregnant, could experience first-hand the immense hardship so many Filipinas go through raising multiple children on a less-than-meager budget, he’d have stuck to his promise to speed up the long-delayed passage of the bill, and not be the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician he’s being now. Give the man a uterus and see if he’ll still pander to the bullying bishops of the CBCP.

Later that day, my Facebook newsfeed tittered with reports that PNoy had actually expressed his desire to pass the RH Bill during his SONA. Media accounts and FB friends alike sang praises for the following sound byte:

“Ngayong paubos na po ang backlog sa textbooks, sana po ay maiwasan na rin ang backlog sa estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.” (Now that our textbook backlog is growing smaller, I hope that we soon get to avoid a backlog in students as well. In my view, responsible parenthood is the answer to this.)

It was reported that this blip in his speech garnered the loudest and longest spell of applause in the entire event. Some present even gave him a standing ovation. People were ecstatic. People were claiming PNoy had finally put his foot down regarding RH.

But I don’t buy it. And neither should anyone else, most especially fellow pro-RH advocates.

By sneaking the term “responsible parenthood” into a statement about education, PNoy remains the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician we’ve been frustrated with since RH became a LEDAC priority measure last year. Not only did he not elaborate as to why responsible parenthood—itself a watered-down, wishy-washy euphemism for reproductive health—would help with the student backlog, but he also worded the statement itself to be quite safe and retraction-friendly.

In his speech, responsible parenthood was a mere aside to a larger concern. Moreover, the phrase “sa tingin ko po” or “in my view,” wraps responsible parenthood in a sheath of self-confessed personal bias. (It’s just his own humble opinion; he’s definitely not setting anything in stone, so to all the anti-RH out there, don’t get all huffy just yet.)

I confess that this last part may be reading too much into things, but regardless of this, what PNoy said still appears very much to be lousy lip service to all the pro-RH begging him to grow a pair. What he said was just a bit of cat nip to tide everyone over for a while. He and his Communications staff likely hoped that the crowd would react the way they did, because this would earn him a respite from all our criticism, would make us temporarily forget that it is partly due to his negligence of the RH issue that the bill continues to be woefully delayed.

Realize that he didn’t promise us anything in that speech. In fact,  what he said could very well help to delay the bill’s passage even more, as we would spend so much time waiting for something that actually wasn’t assured to us.

PNoy should have just said, “I will work to get the RH Bill passed.” Straightforward, to the point, definitive, crystal clear.

At the pro-RH demonstration earlier that day, the crowd was introduced to a 19-year-old girl who had to take care of her 10 younger siblings herself. Their mother had died upon giving birth to the 11th child—one of the 12 women who die each day from maternal complications. And this 19-year-old girl was pregnant as well. Unless PNoy actually acts on his promise to make the RH law a reality, nothing else from him can assure us that this young girl’s plight will no longer be repeated with other women again and again and again.

That so many of us praised this blip in his speech to the highest heavens simply betrays how desperate we’ve become at this point. We’re starting to hear the things we want to hear, and not see the situation for what it really is. We still have quite a ways to go, and until the president actually says–and, more importantly, does–something directly, unmistakably in favor of reproductive health, we have no reason to celebrate anything just yet.


Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, SocietyComments (1)

FF Podcast (Audio) 006: State of Secularism Address 2011

In this episode, we discuss President Benigno Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address, and we deliver our own State of Secularism Address.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media, Politics, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

His Deafening Silence: A Quick Take on P-Noy’s Lame Excuse

(Video from GMA News TV)

President Noynoy Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), apart from being the most shameless reheating of a metaphor in recent literature, was not much else. Yes, we get it, the man loves talking about his wangwang, but what of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, among other dire matters? Suffice it to say that many people were sorely disappointed by P-Noy’s deafening silence regarding the sundry issues he failed to mention, and clamored for a follow-up.

Sadly, P-Noy’s response was just as disheartening.

Regarding the RH Bill, he said:

Anong pakinabang nino man na ‘yong proponents and ‘yong antagonists of the bill to discuss it when we are almost at the stage na tapos na ‘yong debate (What’s the use of discussing it when we’re almost at a point where the debate is over)?”

The debate’s almost over? That’s news to us, dear President. When you say something is almost over, you can see a definite conclusion hovering around the corner, and I’m afraid all of this hemming and hawing from Malacanang the past year regarding the RH Bill–most notably the one being held behind closed doors with a bunch of old, virgin men–has prevented any semblance of a conclusion from being formed. On the contrary, the moment you decide to reign the CBCP down from the heights of unwarranted privilege is when we can finally see an end in sight.

Ask any person on the street if they can definitely say whether or not the RH Bill will be passed into law–not whether they are for or against the Bill, but whether they know the state the government is in regarding that matter. Odds are that they will struggle with their answer.

That was what the SONA was for, P-Noy. We weren’t even asking for a dissertation. A comprehensible sentence or two on what you thought about it was enough, but you couldn’t even give us that. If the issue really was nearing an end, shouldn’t you have at least said so instead of leaving the entire country hanging? In the spirit of your tired metaphor fetish, if we really were your boss, we would’ve fired you already not only for your shoddy report, but for taking us for fools and making up such a poor excuse.

Posted in Featured, Politics, SocietyComments (1)