Monday, December 28, 2009


EXPLOITING THE EXPLOITABLE

On the anniversary of man's landing on the moon, US President Barack Obama proudly declared America would soon be sending her astronauts to other uncharted planets in outer space.

Meanwhile, back in Manila, we have gone back to motorless pedicabs. And speaking of pedicabs, who allowed those rickety contraptions pedalled by mostly uncouth drivers in the streets of the metropolis, completely disregarding all traffic rules and regulations, causing nightmarish traffic snarls? No wonder the lines in the different foreign embassies are getting longer by the day.

And how come they haven't enforced already existing city and municipal ordinances banning pedicabs from main city thoroughfares? We still see those pesky sidecars defying traffic laws on main roads while the police simply look the other way. Is it because policemen own several of these rolling irritants?

And then comes a vice-presidential bet who lauds and promotes these road hazards. Believe me, he's going to create more enemies than friends by the day, which translates to precious votes come 2010 if he continues playing godfather to an illegal trade.

Is this the kind of vision he has for the country? Ask Loren Legarda now, who's steadily eating into his socio-political pie. I'm fine with Loren, as long as she doesn't "cry her way to the bank."

Well, anything just to get those votes. The appropos word I believe is: exploitation. First the palengkeras in the palengkes, and then now the padyakeros in the kalyes. Who could be next to be exploited in 2016 when he runs for president? Perhaps the snatchers or the contratista taxi drivers right under his nose in Cubao's Araneta Center?

SAILING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (SUI)

A ship tragedy. And then another one. The culprits? Inebriated ship captains and their crew, and the usual overloaded vessels.

Practically every ship owner is guilty of greed for overloading their vessels and making more profit while totally disregarding the safety and comfort of their paying passengers.

The government shares equal blame. This is one area in its operations where proper discharge of duties to protect the public is practically nil. Include in this accusation the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the maritime industry.

To picture vividly how ships are normally (over) loaded, passengers always say that they are packed four (4) to a bed while hundreds more sleep on the decks. This is the usual story about our inter-island ships. It is a wonder why they are still allowed to operate after ignoring the law for so long.

I recall passengers leaving for the Visayas telling me how they have to be on board at least a day before departure so they can assure themselves of space and how they have to shell out money to crew members who sell rights to beds and preferred areas like those near comfort rooms and the kitchen.

One wonders how such collisions still take place. It seems that the vast oceans aren't big enough at all for them. Blame it on grog perhaps, or plain and good old fashioned stupidity? And aren't these vessels supposed to be equipped with electronic safety equipment, especially radar to avoid accidents in the open seas, unless of course there are still vessels whose owners are so greedy they don't even care to spend for safety equipment and electronic devices.

And so, another investigation leading to another blank wall where no one really goes to jail for such crimes. For a change, the Marina authority and the Philippine Coast Guard must implement maritime laws in its strictest sense. It's time the government turn its attention to the deplorable state of sea travel in this country.

All ocean-going vessels which treat their passengers like cattle to the slaughter must be scrapped and forever banned from plying the high seas.

Friday, December 25, 2009


SYNDICATED SYCOPHANTS

Perhaps it will be a feather in the President's cap if she does revamp the Cabinet for the last time but more importantly, break the cordon sanitaire which had isolated her from the public and promoted only the interests of persons close to this group.

This powerful clique controls the movement of papers in Malacanang, determines who gets to see President Arroyo, interferes in decisions of government multi-million peso transactions, orders government officials in the name of the President and shapes the political fortunes of many.

Manipulating this cordon sanitaire are business tycoons, society matrons and certain powerful relatives. Also include well-known professional boot-lickers in the guise of advisers and consultants.

The Presidential Management Staff (PMS) would do well to inquire into the background and activities of so-called career service officers in the Palace, many of whom are corrupt and have managed to cling on to every administration through boot-licking and intrigues.

These are the experts in "missing" important documents which show up only when the proper fees are paid them, in pulling the wool over the eyes of new officials unaccustomed to the labyrinthine Malacanang procedures and in giving important advance information to outside contacts being decided by the Cabinet. One would get the surprise of his life if he decides to examine the assets of these junior officers, especially their accounts in foreign banks. One will also be shocked to find out that several of them are in the payroll of big business establishments and even foreign governments. The rampant boozing and floozing inside the premises of the Palace is a common occurence. Time to exorcise the Palace again.



THE MEETING

The approval by the Philippine Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) headed by the late former President Corazon Aquino of the stock distribution plan of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita was generally received with sarcasm. The general comment was, "Well, what did you expect?"

Its approval was given the thumbs up after President Aquino left the PARC meeting on the matter, and former DAR Secretary Miriam Defensor-Santiago and PARC vice-chair (now Senator), proudly hailed it as a good model for the government's agrarian reform program. Santiago also praised President Aquino for inhibiting herself from the deliberations on the controversy in the Hacienda Luisita owned by her family. But what transpired in the discussions before Aquino left that meeting remains a mystery to this day.

Columnist Ninez Cacho-Olivares called the approval of the Luisita plan disgraceful. She also wondered how the much-vaunted courage and independence of Lady Miriam did not surface during the Luisita deliberations.

Olivares' punch-line was, "EDSA did nothing for the Filipino people. Apparently, it did a lot for the Cojuangcos."

(Image from http://cdn.wn.com/)


Sunday, December 20, 2009


LUISITA'S SIDE

The Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Office writes to clarify certain points in my mounting attacks against the Hacienda Luisita, and why it was never subjected to land reform.

The letter says that in 1989, the hacienda was subjected to land reform through a Stock Distribution Option pursuant to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL).

Before its coverage under the system, management of the hacienda required all its seasonal workers to choose from physical distribution of the property or stock distribution option. This, I was told was done through a referendum conducted and supervised by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and witnessed by radio and print media representatives.

The 7,000 workers chose stock distribution and signed an agreement with management on this choice. The agreement was forwarded and approved by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) headed by none other than President Aquino as chairperson.

Furthermore, I was told that the tenants turned down physical distribution of the hacienda which would mean less than one (1) hectare each for them which is not enough to support a family and they would be deprived of benefits given them by management like free residential lots, educational assistance for their children and mobility assistance.

Well, critics had charged that Luisita management had supposedly coerced the tenants into accepting the stock option and reject land distribution.

In bringing up anew the Hacienda Luisita issue against Noynoy Aquino, he should not forget that among President Aquino's campaign promises when she ran in 1986 was to give the hacienda to tenants in line with an agreement her family signed with the government when they borrowed funds to buy the hacienda.

Other critics say that the biggest joke during the Aquino regime was its land reform program which applied only to lands of her political enemies which were forcibly taken over and given to tenants.

None of the former president and her choice relatives' estates were touched.


Saturday, December 19, 2009


THE RETURN

A new church-backed "people's movement" is urging morality and scruples in government. Incidentally though, many leaders of this new group are identified with the regime of the late former President Corazon Aquino, and are now hovering around heir-apparent Noynoy Aquino and runningmate Mar Roxas.

Several of them are said not to be qualified to talk about morality because they themselves are open to attacks for hidden skeletons in their closets. Political motives have also been ascribed to the group. It was said the leaders are working for a return to power by appointive positions once Noynoy makes president. As it is, these people salivate and drool over their imaginations each time their man tops any given survey there is.

I had coffee recently with a relative of subject presidentiable and inevitably, our small talk drifted to the thorny issue of these relatives' supposed involvement in numerous cases of graft and corruption in government. And for the other side of the question, I got a brutal explanation.

He said they had suffered for 20 years under the Marcos regime. They had been persecuted and hounded and had their businesses and properties grabbed away from them by Marcos' henchmen. When President Cory took over, it was time for them to recover what had been stolen from them and rehabilitated themselves. And what was wrong with our trying to make a living under Cory? Are we going to be denied this just because we are her relatives?

And then it was time for some straight-shooting and honesty. He told me in a whisper that they knew Cory wouldn't be around long enough and that they had to feather their nests and prepare for the inevitable post-Cory era when they might again be subjected to persecution, and that is where money, lots of it, will come in handy to protect themselves. Look at some of the moneyed Marcos cronies, he said, many of them have escaped prosecution and even managed to worm their way into the inner circles of succeeding administrations because they knew how to buy off the right people in government and among close relatives.

I walked away from that coffee session in a daze, but properly given the low-down on the case of presidential relatives and their headaches.

And so, it does fall into place. They could be staging a comeback once Noynoy Aquino makes it to Malacanang. I guess some things never change. And among those that will always remain in the Filipino way of life is the "utang na loob" system and the meddling of relatives and cronies with the one who succeeds his way most to a high position. In this case the presidency. Brace yourselves, for the "holier than thou" para-clergy are back with a vengeance. This time more vicious and with a bigger appetite for power, backed by a younger generation of the Kamaganak II Inc.


Friday, December 18, 2009


DOCTORS IN THE PALACE

There are reports that a confidential list of illegal loggers is being "doctored" in Malacanang to remove the names of some government officials and other persons close to the Arroyo government. This could be the reason the list has not been released to the public.

DENR Secretary Lito Atienza could, for some time now, be between the devil and the deep blue sea, and perhaps was experiencing "heavy pressure" to sanitize the list. Doing so could affect his mayoralty candidacy when charges of coddling illegal loggers intensify.

National outrage for illegal logging is mounting, but still on a slow pace. Stop illegal logging? Puro pangako lang.



Thursday, December 17, 2009


HAUNTED BY THE HACIENDA

The media bureau of presidential bet Noynoy Aquino should blue-pencil a pertinent portion in an article in the Los Angeles Times written during President Corazon Aquino's term. I believe there are certain quarters out there who will be coming out with this article next year. The article by John Cavanagh and Robin Broad should also be of great interest to both supporters and critics of Noynoy. The Hacienda Luisita issue will always be around to haunt him.

The particular item in the article bluntly states:

"Corazon Aquino's promise of land to the tiller has degenerated into a program of almost comical scandals in which wealthy landlords sell their worst parcels of land to the government at ridiculously inflated prices which peasants-turned-landowners must repay in full. This may be the first land reform in history in which the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer."

As it is, a Noynoy Aquino administration may only continue this practice and attitude which he will inherit from his mother Cory. And what about the issue on his father Ninoy and the case of another "killing" inside the hacienda? I think it's time we unearth (pun unintended) this matter so the public may know what also happened there once upon a time way before the Hacienda Luisita massacre took place 5 years ago.

Sunday, December 13, 2009




A FORGOTTEN PARTY LEADER?

The Liberal Party will soon be holding a shindig to honor outstanding past and present LP leaders as part of a national effort to revitalize the party in preparation for the coming polls, not to mention that both of their candidates Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas maintain the lead in current surveys.

In listing the LP greats to be honored, the organizers should not omit the late President Ferdinand Marcos who was president of the Liberal Party (LP) for many years until he bolted to the Nacionalista Party (NP) to become their presidential candidate. He probably flashed the 'L' before flashing the 'V.' Well, I suppose even the late Marcos was bitten by the balimbing bug at some point in his political career. Twice, I believe.

But even after he had joined the NP and then became Philippine president, Marcos maintained good relations with the LP. He helped many Liberals during his presidency even to the consternation of the Nacionalistas.

With Noynoy at the forefront of the Liberal Party, he may prevent the inclusion of Marcos from the roster of LP leaders, and this will surely be received with anger in the Ilocos regions where Marcos is still regarded as their true leader and benefactor.

Surely, LP leaders are aware that former First lady Imelda Marcos and her children - and especially now Bongbong Marcos, who is running for senator, are regularly consulted by many Ilocano leaders seeking political advice, especially with the coming May 2010 polls.

Many houses in the Ilocos provinces still display old and dilapidated "Marcos pa rin" posters. Many people still follow orders from Marcos leaders in the region.

A few Ilocano politicians like Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, former President Fidel Ramos and former Senator Ernesto Maceda have failed to get the Marcos mantle in the north. Senator Aquilino 'Nene' Q. Pimentel who hails from Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, claims to be an Ilocano since his mother Petra Quilingquing comes from Marcos' hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte. Pimentel is a cousin of General Fabian Ver. In fact, Pimentel had a local bill passed changing the name of a Batac barangay to Quilingquing.




STATURES AND STATUES

The Japanese really know how to deal with Filipinos. They know that most of our leaders and officials are scammers, free-loaders and, in the words of the late Chino Roces, "highwaymen."

I remember when a Japanese cigaret manufacturer contributed some 250,000 packs of cigarets - or 5 million sticks for distribution to a rally on EDSA (Quezon City side) many years ago. And to think that the same city was supposed to be under a smoking ban then. So how come those EDSA organizers accepted the donation?

Recently, another "donation" to Quezon City was consumated, perhaps coinciding with its honorable mayor's "balimbing act." This pertains to Mayor Sonny Belmonte's pledge of allegiance to the Liberal Party, announcing to the whole city his undying support for Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas. Of course, Vice-Mayor Herbert Bautista wasn't far behind. He was on a yellow leash as well. And what better way to reinforce this partisan commitment than to erect yet another statue of Ninoy Aquino right in the heart of Quezon City. The structure now stands on the corner of sleazy Quezon Avenue and Timog. That corner happens to be a bottleneck too because unruly jeepney drivers load and unload their passengers right there causing traffic.

And perhaps, many still remember a donation to the province of Tarlac of a statue of Ninoy Aquino during President Cory's regime. This donation was made by one of the bidders of the Philippines Roppongi property in Japan - whose sale was (and still is) the object of question and controversy, not to mention the all-expenses paid junkets national and local officials then have made several times to Tokyo. Many of these Aquino officials even had the shamelessness to ask their hosts for "pocket money" to finance their spending sprees.

Do you still wonder why our former enemies still regard us as trash, abuse our women, and dump their toxic garbage on our piers, even to the extent of having our senators kiss the wooden sandals of the Yakuza in the country?




















Monday, December 07, 2009


BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Once upon a time and not so long ago, there was a conversation between three political leaders of the land, and it went like this:

ZALDY: "Boy, can I borrow a backhoe?"

BOY: "Sure, governor! I'll have one delivered to your house in Davao City."

RAUL: "Noted."


(Above photo, L-R: Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Speaker Prospero 'Boy' Nograles and ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan)

Sunday, December 06, 2009


MARTIAL LAW AND MAR SHALLOW

Nothing in particular. Just playing with words as I always love to, and these suddenly appeared like marquee lights in my mind: "Martial Law," and "Mar Shallow." Both subject matter are currently a daily read these days in practically every publication there is, which brought me to ask myself how long will Martial Law be implemented in Maguindanao and will it spill over to other areas like Metro Manila and then to the entire archipelago to, in the words of Rep. Teddy Casino, "end all other rebellions?" and then coming to mind too is the question how shallow really is Mar Roxas? As one reader puts it, "he's deeply shallow." But methinks Mar is shallowy deep, what ever that means. You be the judge.

Being a little "shallow" can be tolerable, especially from one whose organization tries hard to identify him with the masses or the hoi polloi with pseudonyms first like "Mister Palengke" and then a few years later "Padyak," when in fact he comes from the creme de la creme of such buena familias. In short, an upper crust, top-of-the-foodchain bourgeois. A capitalist who exploits the proletariat. The same thing can be said about his runningmate Noynoy Aquino and most of the presidentiables.

And since it looks like he's a sure winner for the second highest office in the land, I just hope he doesn't become another Sultan of Shallow like VP Noli de Castro.

As for Martial Law, that really is either tolerable or intolerable, depending on whose side you're on.


Saturday, December 05, 2009


"HELLO CIGAR"

The return of the didjay. Former President Fidel Valdez Ramos recently called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down from the presidency, in reaction to her final decision to run for a congressional seat in 2010. I think his call is five years late. As it is, people don't really put too much weight any more on his pronouncements.

So let's just talk about his favorite "mouthpiece" - cigars.

Pictures of former President Ramos chomping on cigars which used to appear on a regular basis in newspapers probably did some promoting of cigars and tobacco among Pinoys. Cigar clubs did sprout in major cities and include as members well-known ladies in society and in the entertainment industry.

I am told that the best cigars in the world come from Cuba. One, known as Cohiba, costs something like $850 per box of 25 in New York City. Cohiba is smuggled into the United States from Cuba by Cuban-American businessmen who find it hard to meet with the demand among the well-heeled in the U.S.

The tobacco industry is still the biggest dollar-earner in Cuba, and every visiting dignitary to Havana had been gifted by no less than President Fidel Castro with boxes of the prized stogies.

Back to FVR. Well, he's quite known around the world as a cigar-chomper since he has been photographed in key foreign cities with a cigar in his mouth. Of course, the most famous cigar smoker in history was Britain's wartime leader, Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Hollywood gangster legend Edward G. Robinson was a chomper as well.

Local Filipino cigar manufacturers should come out with one in honor of the former president and call them "Fidel," or "Hello Cigar," to perpetuate the memory of a former Comelec official and an illegitimate president.

So it can be known as the man behind the famous "Hello Cigar" calls on the woman behind "Hello Garci" to step down.

I'll smoke to that.


Friday, December 04, 2009


THE LAST CHRISTMAS UNDER GLORIA?

A form of colonialism will be practiced by upper-crust and middle-income Filipino families as they gather around their noche buena tables soon. Many will also be celebrating the fact that this is the last Christmas under a dark regime. Is it really?

Their tables will be loaded with wine from France and Australia, Edam cheese from Holland, ham and chestnuts from Hong Kong, wallnuts, apples and fruitcakes from the United States, turrones from Spain and chocolates from England and Switzerland. And they will be playing traditional Christmas oldies belted out by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

Among these colonialists will be the so-called nationalists and Filipinists in Congress, the labor movement, media and the academe. In short, a large chunk of the country's population.

President Arroyo will gather her own brood for a quiet family reunion and will be discussing her political plans with them as she prepares to run for a seat in Congress next year.

For the poor, this year has been particularly difficult due to higher prices of commodities, and have managed to scrimp and save for a simple but satisfactory observance of the last Christmas under the Arroyo administration. Indeed, something to celebrate for and hoping the next Christmas under a new government will be better, unless of course our government shifts to parliamentary form and Arroyo makes Prime Minister.


Sunday, November 29, 2009


FERDINAND II

Allow me to start this blogpost by saying this: No, my blog is not for hire nor is it being utilized by any politician or politicians for a fee. It never was and never shall it be. I write from my heart, and do so with openness and a passion. And so, if I write about this individual, it is only because I believe in him, even if we have never spoken to each other. And that is more than enough for me.

I begin by saying that the snowballing criticisms against Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr.'s senatorial bid are said to be orchestrated by leaders of the so-called yellow crusaders and the Kamaganak Inc. who rallied behind Corazon Aquino when she first ran against Ferdinand Marcos.

The pro-Aquino people are horrified over speculations Bongbong will be a sure winner, that is why Aquino supporters have decided to map out a plan to try to prevent such a victory. Their main line now is to ask why Filipinos had forgotten the glory days of EDSA and their bitter fight against a dictatorship.

They have even gone to the silly deep end by warning that Bongbong was embarking on a political career that would bring the country back to the old Marcos years of one-man rule.

They are now having nightmares of Bongbong garnering more votes than their favorites in the senatorial race, a factor which will be interpreted to mean that Filipinos no longer put importance on the meaning of EDSA, or that they would rather forget the wasted, vindictive and uneventful years of the Aquino administration.

Bongbong's victory will prove better than Alessandra Mussolini's victory, a grand-daughter of the Italian dictator Benito (Il Duce) Mussolini, who won a seat in the Italian parliament some years ago. Her victory was analyzed as connoting that Italians had forgiven their Il Duce and may in fact be amenable to having him declared as an authentic Italian hero.

And many Filipinos still remember the disrespect by the Aquino regime for not allowing the late President Marcos a proper burial accorded to all former heads of state, and that Filipinos remember as well that President Aquino approved the burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani of a dog belonging to the k-9 team of the Presidential Security Group during her term of office.

Bongbong's victory is long overdue. The Philippine Senate has waited too long for the return of a Marcos to bring back to its halls its lost glory.


This post wasn't paid for by the Friends of Bongbong Marcos.


(Image from http://www.manilamaildc.net/)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


DESERT DEBAUCHERY

So many of our women have been subjected to extreme cruelty in the Middle East, and a majority of them have been sexually molested and raped. Quite a few have even died under mysterious circumstances.

The trouble is that even our diplomatic officers in those countries have been coerced and terrorized into refusing to help Pinay OFWs, and the different labor attaches are simply just useless.

One depressing report is that quite a number of our diplomatic and labor people in these countries have even victimized the OFWs, demanding money for the services that Filipino taxpayers already pay them to do. Many of these people are protected by their political patrons and there is not much that can be done to discipline them. Most of these patrons come from Congress.

What is it with many Arabs that make them cruel and depraved masters? Even their diplomatic people assigned here shrug off protests from Filipinos.

Is this the price we have to pay for being a poor Third World country? Is it because the bulk of oil comes from the Middle East? Is it because we have weaklings in government who dare not face up to the mighty oil sheiks from the desert nations?

We have talked to some domestic helpers from the Middle East who told us blood-curdling tales of cruelty and viciousness and sexual debauchery at the hands of their Arab employers. Those stories have made even hard-boiled police reporters cringe.

Not one of these Pinays who were able to escape and return home would dare go back there for all the money in the world. It's desert hell, they say. And maybe even Allah would be displeased.

(Image from http://afilipinadollblogger.blogspot.com/)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


CORNY BUSINESS

Popcorn is big business in the Philippines. But do you know that most of the corn used in this lucrative business come from Thailand? While in the past we exported corn, now there is practically no Philippine corn industry to speak of. This is because corn farmers do not get adequate government help in the form of farm technology, loans, sound advice and protection.

One person has practically cornered the popcorn industry in the country and has concessions in all movie houses, shopping malls and public parks. Talk about a popcorn cartel.

But what hurts most really is that the Thai corn industry was developed by Thai scholars sent by their government to UP Los Banos. The same story holds true with our so-called rice industry. Those behind the successful rice programs of other Asian countries all studied and learned their expertise at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and at UP Los Banos (UPLB).

THE STAGE IS SET

Despite denials by top government officials, many people feel that the Arroyo regime will impose martial law soon.

These people see unfolding the same events that preceded President Marcos' declaration of martial law. Political observers say "the stage is set" for the military to seize power from civilian authority which had proven to be unable to cope with the country's many problems.

The perplexing part of the situation is that people appear resigned, if not actually receptive to a new authoritarianism of which the present regime has failed to improve their lives as promised at EDSA. They say life now is worse than it was under the Marcos administration, where at least the crime rate was relatively lower, basic commodities were affordable, and delivery of public services did not fail.

To the horror of some present government officials, some citizens are actually yearning for the old Marcos years. When things have reached such desperate proportions, the time may be ripe for either martial law - or a violent change of government.

Anarchy has become the order of the day. With frequent kidnappings in Mindanao, and now the massacre of innocent civilians, being on the streets even in broad daylight has become hazardous for the ordinary citizen.
The impending increase of gasoline prices and other prime commodities which could drive almost everyone to the streets to protest, have sped up the rush towards violent solutions.

As things stand, civilian authority has faltered before the onslaught of national emergencies and calamities. Incompetent and impotent civilian leaders have only the military to turn to to hold the nation together.

How ironic it is that the present government, brought to power because it abhorred military rule, must now call on the barracks to keep it in power to avoid a Jacobin solution which would have an oppressive and useless ruling class violently destroyed to save the general welfare.

The situation here is under serious study in Washington, where deep worries have now been expressed over the Arroyo government whose corruption it had been tolerating.

A conservative Washington think-tank has compared the current regime to the French nobility of the 18th century which had to be overthrown by a revolution. Since before, the think-tank had urged Washington to distance itself from the Arroyo government.

Because of the current scary conditions, many plan to migrate, savings and current assets are flying to foreign banks and many people are shutting down their businesses to be liquid just in case.

Sunday, November 22, 2009



TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN

One of the principal brokers of the controversial PEA-Amari land reclamation transaction along Roxas Boulevard must be enjoying all his wealth overseas. Now hiding in the US, I would think that he still monitors developments in the country for future possible probes of the billion-peso scam said to involve very prominent government officials and businessmen. As the saying goes, "behind every great wealth is a great crime." And here, nobody really goes to jail for that. Many are in fact lawbreakers in disguise as lawmakers.

This broker is said to have withdrawn in the past something close to PhP400 million he had earned - for closing a deal that probably cost the government up to PhP200 billion in losses - from a well-known bank with a branch located at an Ermita hotel. In other words, he's a take-the-money-and-run type of fellow.

This same wheeler-dealer was also involved in a controversial transaction for a luxury plane which had government probers looking into activities of certain PCGG officials who were then administering properties sequestered from Ambassador Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco.

Curiously enough, the transactions were reportedly consumated withthe participation of Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was still a practicing lawyer in Arkansas.






Saturday, November 21, 2009


BALIMBINGS AND BACK-STABBERS

Elite families from the Marcos, Aquino and Arroyo camps cross paths at the snooty Manila Golf (Club) in Forbes Park especially during after-office cocktails at the bar and Sunday lunches (which are family affairs) at the main dining room.

They give each other cold stares and whisper their contempt against the balimbings. They openly speculate about who among the members of these families will again "turn traitor" if the 2010 elections bring about a change of political fortunes.

Certain prominent persons identified with the Arroyo government have reportedly started touching bases with the other side of the political fence.

Loyalty ends where lameduck begins?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


BARE KNUCKLES AND BACK ROOMS

The identity of the man who gave a gift of US$10 million from the late President Ferdinand Marcos to the campaign chest of the late US President Ronald Reagan in 1984, but which had been pocketed by a Washington lobbyist is again being talked about in a few political circles.

It is said he was a member of the Batasan Pambansa in 1984 and was a leading opposition leader in the mid-1990s. He was a top confidant and adviser of both the late President Marcos and former First Lady Imelda Marcos. A congressional probe on the matter should be initiated and a formal resolution to this effect could be introduced in the Lower House.

Clues as to the identity of the Marcos confidant can be gleaned from Ed Rollins' book Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My life in American Politics. Rollins was Reagan's campaign manager in the 1984 US polls.

As the story goes, Rollins describes the man as "a real power broker," "educated," "sophisticated," and "charming," who invited him one night in 1991 to the man's home and introduced him to his family. Rollins was then taken to the home of the man's mistress for dinner. Drinks and all, and he was asked, "you ran Reagan's campaign, didn't you?" Rollins nodded, but he had no idea where this was leading to although he said the scotch was "damn good."

The man smiled and said, "I was the one who gave the US$10 million from Marcos to your campaign."

Rollins said the man admitted he delivered the money in cash personally and named the receiver, a well-known Washington power lobbyist.

"Cash? Holy shit!" Rollins exclaimed and thought, it didn't reach the Reagan campaign chest.

This looks too interesting now that it has been exposed again. A thorough probe could be in the offing and the public in both countries should be well informed.

Monday, November 16, 2009


UNIMPRESSED

That's the trouble with instant projects. In the rush, they usually suffer from lack of coordinated planning and implementation. After all, the prime objective is impact and propaganda.

The Arroyo administration clearly wants to be remembered by its infrastructural accomplishments, and what better projects than flyovers and skyways to impress the public?

President Arroyo, along with her closest advisers, are cramming into the last few months projects that should have been done from Day One of her administration. It has only succeeded in proving right anew the old axiom that haste makes waste.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


RUBBERNECKS

The Associated Press reports that when Mayon Volcano spewed flaming boulders and sent a river of lava flowing down its slopes, a crowd of Bicolanos cheered the pyrotechnic (pyroclastic) display.

Well, we Filipinos are a nation of rubber-necking curiosity seekers. We like to be on the scene of the action even if our very own lives are endangered.

Remember the various coup attempts against the Aquino administration? There were more uziseros than there were government troops and rebels combined. These by-standers cheered the soldiers on either side to shoot one another. Others grabbed as souvenirs ammo shells just as they were ejected from the hi-powered rifles.

The combatants had the problem of having these curiosity seekers under control. Many of these rubbernecks did not leave their vantage points even if it meant getting caught in the crossfire. A few of them were run over by military vehicles.

In hindsight, many of the participants in the EDSA 1 and 2 revolts were most probably uziseros - not the highly-motivated civilians that the Aquino and Arroyo supporters love to brag about.


Friday, November 13, 2009


FOR OFFICIAL ABUSE ALSO

There is an ugly practice committed by several members of the cabinet, senators, congressmen and top members of the judiciary which needs to be stopped immediately. It is the misuse and abuse of Philippine Air Force (PAF) planes and choppers. These government officials have been guilty of this practice for quite some time now. Many of their out-of-town trips are simply just for the purpose of cutting ribbons and inaugurations for completed public works projects, or even crowning some barrio beauty queens.

Why can't officials take commercial flights? After all, they are entitled to transportation allowance. Or do they take the PAF aircrafts and divert their travel money to their personal use?

Many legislators have complimentary passes from Philippine Air Lines (PAL). And so, it is difficult to understand why they insist on using military aircraft - unless they bring along family members and office staffers when they travel to the provinces.

The PAF should bill these officials for the use of their planes and choppers, not to mention the enormous aviation fuel they have used up to cover their "sightseeing" and pleasure trips. After all, their Countryside Development Fund (CDF) can easily shoulder the costs of their vanity trips. This will be a common scene especially by government-sponsored candidates for the 2010 elections. Watch out for the official offenders again soon.


(Image from http://cdn.wn.com/)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


STREET LIFE

The plight of underprivileged children roaming our streets trying to eke out a living is something we should all be concerned about. Every single day, we see them on the streets, in market places, in parking lots, on jeepneys and any other place they can be just to survive another day.

Under the Constitution, these children have the right to assistance which includes proper care and nutrition, and a guaranteed special protection against all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their interests. The embattled Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) needs all the help as this is the agency that can really do something about our kids before paedophile vultures feast on them.

In addititon:

1) The number of street-children should call us all to a sympathetic alarm. As Christmas draws near, many more of them will surface on the streets;

2) The risk and extent of damage brought about by street life to the child's total development is too serious to be ignored;

3) In a developing society, it is very apparent that unsupportive conditions surround the child's home and life environment;

4) Metro Manila street-children are compelled to work and learn survival skills at an early age as they are deprived of their basic needs for normal physical development, proper nourishment, adequate sleep, clothing and shelter;

5) These street-children are deprived of the needed amount of proper social, intellectual and psychological stimulation, and thus experience feelings of betrayal, abandonment, rejection, helplessness and other insecurities at various degrees; and,

6) Their places of work, the streets, are hazardous and the nature of their work and life make them easily vulnerable to pseuso-rewards, habit-forming vices such as the sniffing of rugby, which are associated with dubious and exploitative characters of the underworld.

Calling the attention of our presidentiables. Please prioritize this social ill.



A PASSING FEVER

Before selective amnesia kicks in for good to the many yellow fever-inflicted Pinoys who now have blindly shifted their support to Noynoy Aquino and party saying that their candidate comes from an untainted (presidential) legacy some of his ancestors have left the country, perhaps it would be apropos to draw attention to a book on the late former President Corazon Aquino by Lewis Gleeck Jr., a former US embassy official who has lived in the Philippines since his retirement from the US foreign service, and is considered one of the foremost experts on the Philippines and frequently consulted by US officials on Asian and Philippine affairs.

Entitled "President Aquino: Sainthood Postponed," the book is a sequel to his first book "President Marcos and the Philippine Political Culture." It pulls no punches and carries withering criticisms about what he calls "Aquino's failed presidency."

In his preface, Gleeck admits he has written what some may find as too critical of Aquino for which he says he makes no apologies. He further writes in the preface:

"Finally, I am firmly convinced that a government cannot perform adequately if its basic raison d'etre is revenge. I am not so Christian to believe that such sentiment is never justified, but revenge, as a basis of government covers up flaws in both the policies and performance of government. Hatred can so deform thinking that what the dethroned monster has done must be seen to be evil and its opposite, good. This was the rationale of Palace policies for the entire six years of the Aquino government."

"In summary, I regard the presidential term of Corazon Aquino as not only a failure, but at the end, a regression comparable to the worst days of the Marcos regime."

In a special message to American readers, he wrote:

"Cory Aquino, choreographed in 1986 by the world media and championed by the American government, flashed like a meteor through the heavens for two years, but failing to capture the coveted Nobel Prize, quickly sputtered to Earth."

"During the next four years, she was sustained in office largely through the efforts of the US which fell victim to its own delusion that it was supporting a saint who would lead the authoritarian-oppressed nations of the world to American-style democracy."

"Mrs. Aquino was not only inexperienced but untalented, a victim of grossly-simplified view of democracy, which in her mind seemed to consist of anything that ran counter to the acts of the Marcos government, some of whose policies were sound and effective."

"Since Marcos had been a strong leader, Cory abdicated leadership in favor of playing, first, chairman of a mediocre Board which could never agree, and then reached kaffeeklatsch decisions among her own cronies whose husbands occupied official positions which they constantly mismanaged. Mrs. Aquino tolerated total incompetence or corruption in her ministries and through repeatedly promising to correct anomalies, just as repeatedly reneged, blindly clinging to cronies and relatives."

So, if you believe "kung ano ang puno, siya ang bunga," well, here you have it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


TOY OR REAL McCOY?

The toy sections in department stores are choked with mock weapons of destruction. These replicas of high-powered firearms like Uzis and Ghalils look so real it is so difficult to distinguish between the toy from the real McCoy.

Wasn't there a campaign to ban the sale of these items to discourage the violence that these toys encourage among the young kids? It looks as if toy manufacturers and dealers like the giant Toy Kingdom have shot down this drive.

The Catholic Church was among the major backers of this campaign. So how come church people and lay groups have suddenly become silent on the matter? Or have they simply given up their efforts because government officials don't give a hoot?

In the United States, government and private citizens have joined hands to crack down on the manufacture and sale of these toys. This is part of a national concern over the mounting crime rate in that country due to lack of gun control.

Remember how we were jolted by the rising number of killings in the US and when a bright young Filipino lawyer was killed on a New York commuter train when a crazed gun-wielder shot down several pasengers? That lawyer was the daughter of the secretary-general of the Philippine Senate, and no less than the US ambassador went to this official to offer the condolences of his government. Many nodded in silent agreement when the Philippine official stressed that the United States is not really a safe place to live in any longer.

Perhaps it would be wise for parents not to buy their children these toy guns this Christmas - or any other Christmas. Statistics show that more than 50,000 robberies over the past 5 years have been committed with the use of toy guns. It was stressed that "many times our children feel that real guns are just like toys." This same advice should be heeded by Pinoy parents. In recent years, quite a number of young kids had been involved in fatal accidents using real guns. One of the most noted was that of a 5-year-old kid who fatally shot a housemaid with his father's gun after an argument over TV shows.

Time magazine reports that in the US alone, handguns owned by private citizens are at a whopping 67 million, and violent crimes committed with handguns are at an annual 640,000 cases, including an estimated cost of the economy over firearm injuries at US$14 billion.

Even the once active Gunless Society group of Nandy Pacheco has suddenly become muzzled. Not a peep has been heard from them for quite some time now. Looks like the Pacheco advocacy group has been shot down by powerful persons behind the pro-gun group, which includes top government officials and the military brass.

For them, it will always be Gun the Ban.

POLITICAL FLIES

'Tis the nippy month of November. It is also the season for some exotic fruits like the balimbing and the unique genus of the Lepidoptera species developed in the Philippines called political butterflies. I'd rather call them political flies, hopping from one dung to another.

Expect the mighty Lakas to semi-disintegrate with many of its officials preparing to make a mass migration to the opposition parties such as the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party whose members and their fantasizing fanatics believe that their bets Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas have already won even way before the 2010 elections. What arrogance. What buffoonery.

'Tis the merry month of November and 'tis also the season for cult members who worship Brutus, Quisling, Judas and Benedict Arnold and other assorted characters notorious for being opportunists, rats jumping from a sinking ship, and pettifoggers.

With such kind of politicians and leaders, no wonder this country is in such a mess. Even our church leaders, who are supposed to be our guides are equally guilty of such deception and deceit and should be lined up against a wall and whipped ahead of those dirty politicians.

If we stop voting, will they ever go away?


(image from http://fohn.net/)

Friday, November 06, 2009


HARPED THINKING

I have always dreamed of playing a musical instrument. Any musical instrument. But my day-dreams always zero-in on a harp. Yes, a harp - that contraption attributed to angels mounted on clouds floating endlessly above our heads. Silly you say? Methinks it takes a real man to be seen playing a harp considering the rarity of finding man and harp playing beautiful music together.

The harp is the national symbol of Ireland. Its romantic charms were first enjoyed by the Celts in the 7th Century A.D. The remains of several Celtic harps have been unearthed from the buried ship Sutton Hoo near Suffolk, England. The harp's mesmerizing sound did much to spread its popularity. One Celtic legend proclaimed that there were but three things necessary for a happy home - a virtuous wife, a chair cushion, and a harp.

Some harps were found in an archaeological dig at Ur in Sumer, dating its origins to some 3,000 B.C. The Ur harps, whose shapes are thought to have been formed to copy a hunter's bow, were curved instruments with 12 to 15 strings that apparently did not sound at all different from the later Celtic versions. And, for reasons yet to be satisfactorily explained, the harp seems to have been exclusively played by women. Still today, most harps can be found as orchestral instruments, played mostly by women.

I think my next musical instrument day-dream will be centered on a nose flute. It could at least help clear my sinus.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


IDIOT BOX REDEFINED

Former world heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali (a.k.a. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) must be painfully asking himself if the fame and fortune he had reaped in the many years as a prized boxer are worth the condition he is in now.

Ali is a broken man afflicted with strong uncontrollable body tremors, blurred speech and lack of coordination of body functions. He has what is known as Parkinson's Disease.

A medical report had said that, as shown in a cat scan, powerful blows to Ali's head from powerful boxers like Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes and George Foreman had caused neurons in his brain to "drop out." A radiologist said that the same condition afflicts more than 50 percent of boxers with over 20 bouts.

Ali's sad case gives support to critics of the sport of boxing who have urged that it be scrapped especially among the youth since it is barbaric, degrading to human dignity and encourages violence. A good example here is Chavit Singson, a widely-known supporter and patron of Manny Pacquiao, the former beating up his girlfriend black and blue. But this was a mis-match.

I recall the case of another black heavyweight champion Joe Louis who attained fame and fortune like Ali did, but died a poor man in a flea-infested flop-house after he was fired from his post as a bouncer in some honky-tonk joint. These poor boxers, mostly blacks and latinos, are exploited by mostly white promoters and agents who luxuriate in posh retirement in Miami and Mexico while their wards end up punch-drunk in charity homes. Better we keep a tight watch on Freddie Roach. He could be living up to his surname.

In our country, boxing is big business. It even sends a mob of our congressmen to fight venues like Las Vegas, all expenses paid for by Filipino taxpayers. Time for re-examination of our values.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


TELL THAT TO THE MARINES

A jihad is a war against the enemies of Islam. Muslim fighters are asked to take an oath (juramentar in Spanish). Jihad is a venerable institution sanctioned by the Qur'an and the Hadith. It arose in the Philippines during the Moro wars, notably among the Tausugs and the Maguindanaoans as a patriotic action against the Spanish invaders.

A mujahid goes to war against enemies of Islam and actually desires to be killed to ensure immediate entrance into paradise.

Jihad constituted one of the most effective and terrifying weapons by the Muslims against the Spanish and American colonialists. Because of this, the Americans had to develop the Colt .45 and the Krag-Jorgensen rifle to stop the frenzied, attacking mujahid dead in their tracks.

Haven't the Muslim rebels declared a jihad yet against the government forces? And how many times have we heard AFP spokesmen and fattened generals say that the Abu Sayyaf will be history soon? Is our AFP scared of a jihad on them? Is there some secret negotiation here between the Abu and the AFP? Time and again, our military brass have declared that the Abu Sayyaf's days are numbered. This I have heard countless times before, just like a broken record. Our generals should just "tell that to the marines."

Monday, November 02, 2009




EQ

SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. A prominent Manila society matron was sitting next to President Quirino at a smart party.

"Oh, Mister President," she said gushingly, "you are so silent. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you."

"You lose," the President replied.

THE BARBER OF ALABANG

Meet Mang Terry, barber, 71, married with 5 kids. He cuts hair all day long at the Alabang Public Market. His mind is as sharp as his scissors and razor when it comes to politics. He knows the heroes and the heels in government. And much more.

I must admit that I look forward to my haircut day with him every 12 days. The moment I sit on his swinging chair is the same moment he starts telling me stories like a storyteller would to a 7-year old kid. Amazingly and astonishingly accurate this Mang Terry. His stories almost always confirm things I had previously heard from another source. It always keeps me guessing where he would get these news. From other customers perhaps? From the radio? From palengkeras? Whatever his source, it must be from an unimpeachable one. The only time Mang Terry would stop blabbering is when my haircut was over and I would step down from his chair. He would then continue with the next customer I suppose. I never fail to reward him with a generous tip for his 'breaking news.' He should be employed at the Office of the Press Secretary where I am quite sure he would be a threat to all the fibbers in that department, I thought. He knows his politics like a true scholar of the subject. They only know how to juggle them.

On the other hand -

Meet King Archelaus, perpetrator of that ancient joke about replying "in silence," to the barber who asked him how he should cut his hair, and how he would be pleased to know that his tradition is occasionally carried on in the modern era.

A man, who might well stem from this kingly line, handed the barber a coin and then climbed into the chair.

"Why, sir, thank you," said the astonished barber, "never before have I been tipped in advance."

"That is not a tip," snarled the customer. "It's hush money."

Thursday, October 29, 2009


QUID PRO QUOJUANGCO

Chiz bolts the NPC. Danding remains silent as usual, living up with the role that of an eminence grise. An invisible political hand conducting matters from the top at the giant SMC offices with Ramon Ang as the human ATM.

There has always been a Cojuangco hand in government affairs since the revolution against the Spaniards at the turn of the century, and then successively in all Philippine governments from the American Period to the Japanese Occupation and the post-Liberation years, and after independence under different presidents.

However, the Cojuangcos were dissapointed when Fidel Ramos began to buck their demands and decided the family had to come together again to operate as a single efficient unit to preserve the clan and their prominence in the country's life.

Do you remember that September 21 rally in 1997 when Cardinal Jaime Sin had been quoted as saying that that rally was really the idea of the Cory Aquino clan and he (Sin) did not even have a hand in organizing it? It was only after it was finalized that he was informed about it and readily agreed to help because it gave a chance to hit two birds with one stone: continue the hatred against Ferdinand Marcos (who declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972), and stop Fidel Ramos dead on his tracks from continuing as president after his term ended.

As to the Cojuangco influence under the Ramos administration, it was said all had diminished when FVR ceased to become a marionette of the clan. Only former Senator Francisco Sumulong retained some sort of influence on Malacanang, but even he had become remote from the center of power.

No need to cry over spoiled cheese. Danding has no regrets on Escudero's departure. He still has two nephews in the presidential race - Gibo and Noynoy. Forget party loyalty. Forget family feuds. Forget past political atrasos.

Blood is thicker than - beer.

CHAMP WITH CHIZ

SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. I've been contemplating on this idea for many months now - and then just recently, a breakthrough! If I had it my way, and now that Francis 'Chiz' Escudero has bolted the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), I would perhaps broker a new presidential-vice presidential tandem of Manny Pacquiao and Chiz Escudero, and then try to lure food empire Jollibee Foods Corporation to fully support their candidacies. This is hitting two birds with one stone so to speak, further promoting an already excellent and mouth-watering Jollibee burger called 'Champ with Cheese,' and since their campaign slogan would simply be: "VOTE CHAMP WITH CHIZ !" What do you think? Will it fly, or fly out the window? Of course I'm only kidding.


(Image from http://www.jollibee.com.ph/)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


DYNASTIC DUO

SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. Filipinos have become the largest Asian immigrant population. In the US alone, it is a fact that every state has at least one Pinoy family cooking adobo and pancit.

But this is not at all flattering. During the Marcos years, Pinoys fled mostly to the US as political refugees. Many came back after Aquino came to power. But soon, they started leaving again because of extreme economic difficulties and government incompetence. During the Aquino years, Pinoys swarmed to other countries to look for employment since they had no job opportunities in the Philippines. When a vengeful, inutile government comes to power, the citizens are the first ones to suffer. Such was the case during the Aquino years.

People leave their homeland when things become desperate and when they can no longer feed their families, very much like the Irish who fled Ireland in the thousands during the potato famine.

With Noynoy Aquino and his runningmate what's his name topping surveys for now, having no clear plataporma but all puro porma, this dynastic duo may have an excellent chance at greatness, that is - solving the country's over-population problem.






PEPE OR ANDY?

SLEEPLESS IN MY SHUTTLE. Some of the country's historians are engaged in a debate. It centers over a proposal to name revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio as the national hero vice Jose Rizal. Many claim Rizal was chosen by the Americans to be our national hero because he was a pacifist and fitted the American campaign to subdue us.

Rizal was known to have been against the revolt mounted by the Katipuneros led by Bonifacio against Spain. Rizal even threatened to go into exile so as not to join the "Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipuanan ng mga Anak ng Bayan" (KKK).

The pro-Bonifacio drive is expected to revive bitter memories of the revolution, especially circumstances around his death which could smear the reputation of a few well-known families.

It may also rekindle stories about where the money of the revolution went and about how its alleged disappearance led to the rise of a well-known landed aristocracy whose descendants remain popular in politics and business to this day.

Monday, October 26, 2009


EXEUNT

The Carmen Guerrero Nakpil - Cafe Havana group lunch I regularly attend which meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month is a mixture of interesting people. Writers and poets, journalists and pundits, generals and putschists, artists and con-artists (pun intended). But all well-meaning and honorable in their craft.

Last October 14 was a treat for me, after receiving a copy of Chitang Nakpil's latest book Exeunt. Well, it wasn't really for me. It was, as Chitang would warmly write on the first page of her book a dedication for my father: "For Ariel, Best Friend Forever, Chitang."

It took me a few more days until I had personally delivered the book to my father, not to mention the joy of reading a few pages, part of which was a personal account of Mrs. Nakpil of the EDSA 1 revolt. I too have my own, a sort of mental account as well having witnessed many undocumented facts as I had been closely identified then with the Enrile family for many years. But that shall be for a future post. For now, let's go back to the book.

I sat right next to my father as I handed him the book, and I immediately saw a teary smile as he read portions of it, including the chapter where he was mentioned by the author.

He handed me back the book. I turned to the last page and read with much interest to him its entire passage: "And Ermita (Ah, my Ermita! My home-town with the snob appeal, the long gone citadel of urban civility) is now only the anachronistic surname of the recycled general in the Arroyo cabinet, who finagles with an inescapable Batangas accent.

I tremble at the thought of what monstrosities lurk ahead.

Now, that I'm alone most of the time, waiting for what we Catholics invoke as "the hour of our death", I have begun to understand many things, both small and huge, fripperies and profundities, like the nature of our compassionate God, the steadfast qualities of the Christian religion, the peace that sustains all believers. Also, why the millions of sweat-stained driven men on the streets of Quiapo, or the flagellants of Good Friday, maim each other to touch the hem of the Nazarene or to draw blood from their backs, and why God must love them more than He does the learned clergymen and theologians with their Bibles and their ornate vestments.

We Filipinos draw our endless patience, our good nature and our trust in God's master plan from a simple unshakeable faith. I surprise myself by quoting to a distraught son, daughter or friend, Teresa of Avila's comforting lines which I learned when I was 9, "Nada de turbe. Nada de espante." Let nothing disturb or frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Solo Dios Basta. God alone suffices.

Exeunt.

No longer restless or fractured, rid at last of all strange gods, this very old heart withdraws into peace.

In the very end, after all is said and done, we need only God. Everything else is Vanity of Vanities. All is Vanity."


We were both speechless after.