D’ Strafford levels up: ‘Proving’ the upwardly mobile phantoms of the elections

You have to give the guys from D’Strafford credit for cheek, for cobbling a parallel #Halalan2016 universe.

You have to give them credit, too, for causing very respectable and decent folk to hyperventilate with joy.

d strafford

Never mind that the morning after, the equally respectable Manila Bulletin had to take down the   news item about Mar Roxas “sustaining” his lead over rival wannabe-presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Santiago.


I guess it’s hard for professionals to ignore the reality of D’Strafford’s latest press release. Guess it’s hard to defend a survey firm’s credibility when their release mentions candidate Poe twice, under different rankings.

poe twice

It’s also hard to keep a straight face when the Sun Star — whose editor got into a tussle with social media critics after its report on Strafford’s debut — placed in ”      ” project manager JM Balancar’s defense of their methodology.

It’s the “proving” question, dudes, Balancar told journalists in  press conference following the release of their April 13-18 alleged survey.

He was asked why their press release had nothing to back up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte ‘s rape joke scared off some fans. He said other things, of course. Feel free to read the quotes.


Unlike other survey firms, D’ Strafford sends out a press release, instead of a detailed report that includes mechanics and sub-topics.

We still haven’t seen the actual “proving” question. So we don’t know if voter-respondents got lost in the racing syntax of D’ Strafford’s pollsters. It’s a trademark.

Read: Ro-Ro and the Funny Survey

Maybe Balancar’s just exciteable. Maybe its ecstasy. Hey, you can actually “feel” them breathless with admiration whenever they tweet about Roxas.

It’s the kind of wide-eyed wonder that gals and guys fall for. They’d be lovely in front of the television cameras, yes?

Except it’s also hard to get a handle on these guys. They are virtual phantoms. Read Thinking Pinoy’s latest report.

All that money spent for this reported un-commissioned major survey by a “family-owned corporation with five members” — if the SunStar got the details right.

I got some names during an earlier interview with an incorporator named Mark Lim.

But D’ Strafford dudes go through names as fast as Balancar rushes through his sentences.

Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, credentials a top secret.

The SunStar story said it was in-house consultant Ralph Fuentes who did the honours of presenting results of the first survey.

ralph Fuentes

But they seem to have levelled up fast, if we can trust the tabloid Abante, another eager chronicler of D’ Srtafford.

They apparently now have a “survey director” by the name of John Stevenson. 


When I clicked the share button on that story, here’s what came out.


So I googled John Stevenson.

And, hey, these dudes must be real movers and shakers!

Imagine that, a Conservative British MP for survey director?

stevenson mp

Or so Abante claims. You would think they’d bring a photographer to a press con announcing the results of a major survey. You would think any reporter these days would have a mobile phone with a still and video camera.

Instead, we get a file photo and a leap of faith on the part of the editors. The story actually sounds lifted from yet another wacky press release — though I’ll lay the blame for the photo on Abante.

I was tempted to write to Mr. Stevenson but suddenly thought of the embarrassment that could bring Roxas, the man who would be President. But I will. Tomorrow.

Meantime, let us rejoin in the miracle! And let us enjoy the cosmic tweets from the phantoms of this election.


Ro-Ro and that funny survey

“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.

But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.

A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing  headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.

daang matuwid


The day before, Pulse Asia released the results of the ABS-CBN commissioned survey, showing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte extending his new front-runner position, from 30% to 32%.

Pulse Asia said Duterte managed to capture “a sizeable plurality of Filipino registered voters.”


READ: Duterte extends lead in latest ABS-CBN survey

Had one of the two other big survey firms like the Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Laylo released the April 20 report, it would have been major news.

Both firms have displayed similar rankings, though with different percentages and margins of error.

The catcalls that followed were louder than the hosannas. Many Roxas supporters were too embarrassed to join the chorus, for good reason.

Only a few tabloids carried the momentous announcement. One report, credited to the Philippine Star, actually comes from its Filipino-language tabloid, and has since been taken down.

published Curious website

A simple Google search brings you to the website of  D’ Strafford Research & Strategies, Inc.

The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.

Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.

When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey. 

D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.

I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.

A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”

Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?

Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.

When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.

I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.

He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.

Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Professional style

I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader.  Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.

Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.

D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.

Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:

balancar email


Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.

But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.

pulse 2nd choice better

D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.

Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:

“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.” 

You make try to decipher that.


Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).

leni on d'strafford

After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.

He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”

A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”

Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.

Screengrab photo posted by Mariah Sanchez

It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.

Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.


So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.

Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.

Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.

This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.

Big swing vote…and I’m one of them

In very tight electoral contests, analysts like to peer at the swing votes — the undecided, uncommitted voters.

The latest Pulse Asia survey results show six percent of 5,200 respondents having no presidential or vice presidential choices. They could make a difference given that the top bets are in neck-to-neck races.

The survey section dealing with second preferences also shows that an overwhelming number of those without original candidates also do not have alternate bets — 84% for the presidency, 78% for the vice presidency.

I’ve never been interviewed for these surveys. But I’m in that swing vote demographic. The NOTA (none-of-the-above) crowd.

But I have pledged to vote and continue to wrestle with conscience and study the candidates.

Do I vote so that particular candidates don’t win? Every voter will dislike some candidates more than others. Do I vote for the least evil? Those are questions for one’s conscience. I have no answers yet.

But there’s no point in bashing other voters. Each Filipino has the right to vote, according to that personal light. Even while disagreeing with other people’s choices, some part sees where they are coming from.

Just how real are these wannabe presidents?

#4, Mar Roxas

Roxas, former transport and interior government secretary, has spent the most in campaign ads, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) — P969,173,267 in the pre-campaign period as of Jan. 31 this year. That’s ad time, not including the government resources poured into getting media mileage for Roxas.

Yet there he languishes, despite Edwin Lacierda’s hopeful noises, and despite a switch to a combative campaign image at the start of the official campaign season.

Most people just don’t get Roxas. I’m one of them. He claims to be pure — “hindi magnanakaw” (not a thief, an obvious reference to Vice President Binay’s plunder raps).

But it’s not enough to claim you’re not corrupt. A real enemy of corruption speaks out, consistently, against anomalies and shortcuts in governance. Roxas is zero on this point.

He attacks Binay but fails to mention that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, his ally, has been untouchable despite links to pork barrel scandals and a host of other complaints filed with the Ombudsman. He also backed the administration’s insistence on doling out pork, even with two defeats at the Supreme Court. His department was among the biggest beneficiaries of discretionary funds.

Roxas claims to be pro-poor (well, his wife claims he is, by way of tattered house shirts). He claims to be pro-environment. But he has defended his miner friends, as if oblivious to documented cases of abuses that reached the Supreme Court. Roxas, infamous for the line, “kung alam ko lang” (had I known…) probably doesn’t know that the Supreme Court ruled against his friends. That puts in question his vaunted high IQ and educational pedigree.

Roxas is also silent on  the involvement of a Liberal Party governor who rewarded Shenzhou Mining Group — whose nickel mining operations were suspended after it created a waste pond right on the shoreline of Claver town, Surigeo del Norte — by petitioning the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to allow shipment of ore worth P179 million.

mar shenzou1

He may not be a brute — his word for Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte — but he hasn’t raised a pinky finger to stop the brutalities of this administration. Again — he pretends not to know. He’s so ignorant he once told a lumad evacuee to seek help from his military tormentors. And Roxas was in the company of Surigao del Sur governor, Johnny Pimentel, who’d long sounded the alarm over military and paramilitary atrocities.

Roxas loves to parade his technocrat abilities. He headed the Transport Department and hand-picked his successor. MRT, LRT, airports, traffic — ’nuff said. A former MRT executive has named him and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya as responsible for anomalous deals responsible for repeatedly stranding millions of commuters in the national capital.

He slams Sen. Grace Poe for theatrics. And yet Roxas is the butt of jokes for all those awkward, laughable attempts at presenting his pro-poor credentials — by posing as a pedicab driver, stevedore, traffic aide, rescuer, even a carpenter.

Graphic from politico.com

Roxas is not just saddled with the absence of a backbone. He’s an opportunist who has ignored the most atrocious deeds just to stay in the good graces of a tantrum-prone President. Despite public weeping, he couldn’t even be bothered to confront the President on the deaths of 44 elite cops in Mamasapano.

#3 Duterte

Duterte has overused that hyperbole excuse. He’s given too many threats, spat at civil liberties too many times.

Now he claims a Binay victory will usher in a dark age for the country. He may be right there. But how can he slam Binay’s corrupt ways and proclaim affection for the Marcos dictatorship? He apparently has double standards for corruption, the same way he does for human rights.


Read: Killing for Peace in the Philippines

#2 Binay


The vice president has taken to criticising the inefficiencies of the Aquino administration. Check. We agree.

He has also attacked corruption in the Aquino administration. Check. We agree.

But he, too, faces very serious corruption charges. That huge hacienda. The overpricing of building contracts. Sweetheart deals. We’re not talking spare change. We’re talking big, big money.

Read: Senate probe on Binays: ‘Plunder through grand conspiracy’

And he has responded to these with a strategy of evasion, hoping the largesse he gives to local government officials across the country will allow him to rack up their command votes.

Many people say better an efficient master of corruption than a bumbling one. Good god. And we wonder why young people sneer when we lecture them about martial law.

As retired journalist  Alex Allan notes:

A parallel situation to voting for Binay is smoking. One has been given tons of evidence that smoking causes cancer and kills and yet one continues to smoke? That’s akin to committing suicide. In the same vein, we have already been shown tons of evidence that Binay’s billions have been gained from graft and corruption and we still would want to vote for him? That, too, is akin to committing suicide.

Read my story: Source of Binay funds a puzzle (and that’s not even covering all aspects of the raps he faces)

#1 Poe

Poe is bright. She’s sharp. On many governance issues, she is ready with figures and analysis. I like her platform of governance and don’t agree with others who urge her to junk every policy of Mr. Aquino.

The Supreme Court has handed her a victory, giving her the legitimacy needed to rev up her campaign. (I have no issues on grounds of citizenship or residency.)


But I’ve been troubled by the stance Poe has taken on several issues — her response to the INC’s efforts to stop the investigation of its leaders, for one.

Read Grace Poe and the INC

She shows some problematic tendencies in the face of negative reports — always chalking these to malicious enemies, dodging straightforward responses, ignoring opportunities to provide clear proof in the face of silly reports and thus, giving detractors a longer shelf life.

My biggest reservations, however, have to do with a penchant for ingratiating herself with power blocs. There was the INC And then the Marcoses, obviously to gain some northern Luzon votes.

There’s a strong taint of slip-sliding morality in her fluffy stance to give Bongbong Marcos space to decide on whether the nation is owed an apology for his father’s rapacious regime.

Charles Englund on Facebook disagrees:

“You may be missing the need to ally and talk in campaign speak during this period to appeal to broadest segment possible. The PNoy role was clearly a throwaway olive branch, as is the BBM comments.”

He believes people won’t vote for Binay. But that’s not what Pulse Asia says, unfortunately. If people will go for him in the unlikely event that Poe can’t finish the campaign, they could go for him if they find her playing cutesy too many times.

We’ve lost the strong, steely woman who topped the last senatorial race. Grace Poe needs to find her moxie again, be firm, be strong, be true. Babae ka, Grace. Show us true grit.


 It’s about us, friends

The most common question these days is, “who are you voting for.” The question is often posed as a challenge for every critique of any candidate.

The honest answer is, I have no choice yet. But even if I did, it would make no difference. My vote doesn’t confer sainthood on anyone. Nor does your vote.

My vote won’t deprive me of critical faculties. Nor should yours.

We’re so preoccupied at latching on to politicians, seeing them as saviors. We don’t believe in ourselves as citizens.

That’s why we cannot bear to acknowledge our bets’ weaknesses, before and after victory. That is why we are where we are today, with youth so disenchanted they’re raring to throw egg on our faces.

Should we blame them? No, in many ways, they’re right. We need to regain their trust.

Having a candidate is no excuse to play blind, deaf and dumb to their failings. We mock the Yellow Army for dropping the first, crucial word in “critical collaboration”. And yet almost all of us are doing the same thing all over again.

These politicians are not going to save the nation. It’ll be up to us — all of us, it doesn’t matter who your bet is — to rein them in. Silence is the greatest friend of the abuser. Let’s not forget that.


Even when he said enough, few people believed that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be sailing off into the night.

Duterte has always been a lightning-and-thunder, one-man spectacle. With his latest pronouncement — now running for the 2016 Presidency –expect the Duterteserye to dominate the news and social media.

Whether you like him or not, Digong has shaken the odds for 2016.

His strengths may not be enough to give him victory. Not yet. But he has that rarest of political wealth — true believers. He has more than enough to bloody the noses of the two main power blocs.

He will hurt Roxas more than Poe. READ WHY on scaRRedcat’s latest blog on ABS-CBNNews.com:

UPDATE: I asked Norodin Alonto Lucman , who has filed his candidacy for the senatorial elections and is expected to be in a Duterte slate: How does he feel about Sen. Alan Cayetano, the mayor’s running-mate, if and when? Cayetano is at par with Bongbong Marcos and Roxas where the MILF and many Muslims are concerned.

Noor’s answer: Honestly, do we have a choice? Bongbong Marcos is a liability in Mindanao although it was assumed that he will deliver the North and Western Visayas votes. That is wishful thinking. Bisayans and Mindanaoans will vote for Duterte, hands down. Cayetano is a good prop but he might learn a thing or two about humility with Mayor Duterte.


Metro Manila is the ultimate battleground. There are 22 million votes in Mindanao and as of this writing 70% are in favor of Duterte candidacy. This is likely to surge after today’s announcement. He is also ahead in the Visayas region, ahead of Santiago and even beating Mar Roxas in his region, including Capiz. Luzon will be contested by three candidates from Luzon but Duterte will dominate the masa vote. Metro Manila has a sizable Bisayan and Mindanaoan population. They will campaign not because of some election circus in Manila but of survival and self-dignity. Having said that, Mindanao/Bangsamoro unity – especially the 5-million strong Muslim votes nationwide – is the key to Duterte’s presidency. His senate slate have to tag along because he needs his senators to push his sweeping agenda in Congress. This is a non violent revolution. But if Luzon resist, Mindanaoans knows how to fight too.

Another reader, Godofredo Bernabe · notes:

Duterte’s entry into the presidential race will alter significantly the political landscape and voters equation. PDP-Laban may attract NP (of Manny Villar that has 3 VPs but no presidential candidate). Pacquiao also may leave VP Binay and move to Duterte’s camp. LP nagmamatigas NOT TO LOWER TAX RATE FOR THE WORKING CLASS (one-third of the workers income) prolonged also by the boring LP bets. You have 2 Mannys (Villar and Pacquiao) and the ‘money” they bring to the table of Duterte. Mass exodus is expected.

*Must admit, haven’t thought of the two money bags.

Meanwhile, LenDante Clarino believes Roxas will be the biggest loser and Poe the biggest gainer from a Duterte run … but for a different reason. He says Mr. Aquino will back Poe secretly to ensure his peace in the post-presidency days:

With ‪#‎Duterte‬ entering the prez race and the consequent exodus of NP leaders and others or their shedding off of their political skin to show off to the Davao Mayor, ‪#‎MarRoxas‬ and that idiotic bandwagon, ‪#‎TuwidNaDaan‬ is a goner. The main beneficiary of this latest move by the ‪#‎Digong‬would be ‪#‎GracePoe‬. Foundling or not, natural-born, she’s not, nothing will stop ‪#‎PNoy‬ from throwing his all-out support to Poe—albeit secretly—by using the resources of his office—which last time we look, cornered almost 50% of the PhP2.66 trillion of the 2015 national budget in the form of lump sum funds and other ‘insertions’ including his office’s share in the current deliberations for the proposed PhP3.1 trillion 2016 budget, which is an election year. 

This president will do anything just to avoid jail-time after his stint ends next year. He has this track record when he went all out with his previously unknown ‪#‎DAP‬ pork funds and accordingly bribed—per Sen. Jinggoy Eatrada—the senator- judges in impeaching ex-Chief Justice Corona. If Poe doesn’t bite this ‘carrot on a stick,’ a repeat of “Noy-Bi” would be a likely possibility. In the meantime, it may do well for his supporters to ensure the impending win of ‘El Presidente Duterte’ by pressuring ‪#‎Comelec‬ and its partner-in-crime ‪#‎Smartmatic‬ and expose this syndicate and the fraud that is, ‪#‎PCOS‬ (PNoy’s Criminal Option in Sabotaging) elections.




(UPDATE) Poe also calls for probe into #TanimBala; more than 22k sign #LaglagBala petition

Senator Grace Poe has joined fellow 2016 presidential aspirant, Sen. Miriam Santiago, in seeking a legislative probe into the rash of #TanimBala cases at Philippine international airports.
In a press release, Poe also sent a message to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, “to put an end to the proliferation of ‘tanim-bala’ at the country’s airports within a week or quit.”

Poe gave the statement as members of the House of Representatives pushed for the resignation of Honrado, who is a relative of President Benigno Aquino and a confidante from his younger days.

Reports of “planted bullets” have angered many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and netizens, who see the cases as schemes by some unscrupulous airport personnel to milk locals and foreign nationals passing through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana
Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana

As Filipino netizens posted photos of travellers wrapping their luggage in layers of plastic, all in the hope of not falling prey to #TanimBala, the petition calling for a probe into the alleged scandal continued to amass signers, hitting the 22,000 mark mid-afternoon.

Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts -- and paying additional costs -- to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int'l Airport
Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts — and paying additional costs — to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int’l Airport


Poe’s press release said:

“The number of cases where passengers are being detained for allegedly concealing bullets in their bags have grown exponentially like there’s a deliberate plan to victimize poor, unsuspecting passengers for extortion.  This is unacceptable, and Mr. Honrado should be able to stop this within a week,” Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, filed Senate Resolution 1636 to look into possible abuses of security personnel and failure of airport officials to stop these. Two other resolutions have been filed with the Senate to probe the alleged extortion racket.

The senator also urged the creation of a special task force of law enforcers to replace the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) personnel in the airport as a first step while additional cameras are being put in place and the investigation is ongoing.”

Ednalyn with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn
Ednalyn Purugganan, who started the change.org/laglagbala petition with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn

The President, meanwhile, summoned to separate meetings officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the agency that supervises the X-ray equipment handlers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) , as well as the Philippine National Police aviation command.

Adding fuel to the anger was the disclosure by a choir musical director that a teenaged choir member had also missed their flight  because of a #TanimBala incident. The intriguing parts in the story involve:

One policeman allegedly replacing the live bullet found in the girl’s bag with a smaller, empty one; and cops’ disclosure of a feud with the airport security force.

Vargas said that amid the commotion, police told Rachel that even if they release her, she would not be allowed to board the flight because the police are “not in good terms” with the NAIA’s security guards.

“Nagkaroon ng komosyon doon e, tumakbo iyung ilang singers ko. Nalaman na nung roving security guard nung airport doon pagpasok sa boarding gate, iyung mga nangyari doon sa bullet. Sabi nung pulis, kahit i-release kita ngayon, hindi ka pa rin papasukin doon. Parang ang dating sa usapan nila, they are not in good terms with the security guards. ‘Iyang mga yan, sipsip iyan,'” Vargas said.

Upon Rachel’s release, police also allegedly remarked that the security guards should be “slapped” with the incident.

“‘I-release na iyan, isampal na iyan sa mukha ng mga security guard.’ Sabi ng pulis,” Vargas said.

He said the SWAT member stayed with Rachel until her mom arrived. He said Rachel had to book another flight with her own money to follow her choir to South Korea.

Strange reports kept social media users in a tizzy. A 65-year old woman bound for Singapore to attend a grandchild’s soccer tournament was also arrested and slapped with criminal complaint — even though she had padlocked her bag, wrapped the openings with plastic and even had a pocket sewn shot. A wheelchair-bound Filipino-American likewise almost missed her flight to California after two bullets were allegedly found in her suitcase. An American missionary is seeking release on a similar incident. 

The cases have aroused a complex mix of feelings among Filipinos, anger and shame the strongest.

Even children have taken notice of the scandal. Mary Jane Reyes posted on Facebook a conversation with her child, who suggested taking the cases to the United Nations.

Oh. But are they doing something naman? Super dami na kasi ng victims. I heard even this teenager got victimized and was almost unable to join a prestigious competition abroad. Then some OFWs and now even a 65-year old grandma. What’s the government doing?

Well, they said they have installed or will install a help desk at NAIA and they intend to add more CCTV.

That’s all?

With so much disappointment on her face and after few minutes of silence, she exclaimed:

“Mommy, since there was a Japanese citizen & also an American citizen who got apprehended & jailed recently because of alleged possession of 1-2 bullet/s and were likely also victims of this tanim-bala, and since it seems to me our government is not doing enough or is not really capable of putting an end to this menace, is it possible for you to please contact UN (United Nations) now and ask them to please intervene already?”

Walden Bello: ‘Roxas a Better Choice than Poe and Binay? Are You Kidding?’

(*Almost missed this. Walden Bello sent this “response to a good friend’s justification of her support for Roxas in the 2016 elections.” He says “Omega” is a pseudonym of an organization they both belong to. Everything that follows is by Mr. Bello, the former Representative of party-list Akbayan. He resigned in late March of this year “owing to President Aquino’s double standards in good governance and refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy, Bello was a member of the House of Representatives.”)

You talk about your disillusionment with “Grand Narratives” or big designs for social change, and it is within that disappointment that you locate your support for Mar Roxas in his candidacy for the presidency. You speak about being satisfied if he were to be responsive to a few reform measures, like agrarian reform.

I also do not subscribe to some Grand Narrative, whatever one may call it. But I do think we need a vision, a just society, a caring society; otherwise, as Proverbs 29:18 says, “the people perish.” And we do need a progressive program to bring reality closer to that vision. I am speaking about a transformative process that may be incremental at certain times, revolutionary during more congenial times. Pragmatic we must be, but not empiricist or relativist.

Good governance is certainly a key part of that program; social justice and gender justice are other parts of it. I certainly agree that under Aquino, we had advances in gender justice, notably the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, but not in social justice, as you yourself acknowledge, owing to the signal failure to complete the agrarian reform program. And when it comes to good governance, which was the central reason we in Omega joined the reform coalition in 2010, Aquino subverted it with his double standards, fraternity style of governance, and defiant refusal to acknowledge command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy (in my view, for fear of being hauled to court after his term).

Mar-Roxas-LPWhen Omega people say, we must support Roxas to continue the reform program, I ask what reform program? In Spanish, they would say esta agotado, that is, the reformist potential of the administration is exhausted.

On Roxas himself, this is not 2010. He now bears the burden of his record during the last five years–a yes-man on Mamasapano, a failure as DILG chief, an even greater failure as DOTC head, non-supportive on agrarian reform, a neoliberal in economic policy, a man without substance, a klutz when it comes to management, as shown especially by the mess in Yolanda rehabilitation.

We have to have something more than someone who is not personally corrupt, or shall we say one with the class privileges to afford not to be personally corrupt. We had that with Aquino, and look where it got us.

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay

We have to have something more than his being the lesser evil, which I no longer feel is a good basis for choice.

Besides, what good has the Roxas dynasty ever done for the country? His father Gerry was a mediocre leader who compromised with Marcos until very late in the game. His grandfather was a hated collaborator who supervised the draconian rice procurement from peasants for the Japanese army and was only saved from hanging after liberation by the intervention of Douglas MacArthur. Why bring this in, you ask? Well, if we in Omega are espousing the elimination of dynastic politics, they are certainly very relevant considerations.

This man will not break with his class on the key issues, certainly not on the key issue you would premise your support on: agrarian reform. Indeed, he evinces not solidarity for the poor but solidarity with his class. No less than the top representative of the sugar barons, Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines, said the sugar industry was “thankful” to Roxas for successfully lobbying President Aquino to grant the industry’s request to exempt raw sugar from advance value-added tax, a major source of national revenue. That’s classic class cronyism.

Seriously, would you entrust the country and the fortunes of Omega to this fellow for the next six years?

Senator Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe

Again, let me say, our current choices–Binay, Poe, Roxas–are all terrible. Rather than go for the proverbial lesser evil, I think our responsibility to the country is to denounce and campaign against the elite politics that foists such terrible choices on our people, educate them on the necessity of an alternative to bankrupt class politics, and mobilize them so that whichever ruling class joker wins in 2016, he or she will not be able to rule in the same old way, as the wise old codger said.

GRACE POE and how NOT to damage control (UPDATE on who did it)

UPDATE: A a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe has owned up on the error of that video. Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. His note below, unedited. My views on her statements stand.

Dear Sen. Grace Poe,

You’ve mostly talked sense — not all the time, but mostly — since you campaigned for your current post. During that campaign, when thrown questions on popular issues, you were studied — this part right, but other parts need to be studied. You did very well chairing the Senate probes into the MRT mess. You did even better in the Mamasapano investigation — your committee report is as good as can be expected from the limits of your task.

But you were dead wrong in your statements on the Iglesia ni Cristo protest. And you got well-deserved flak for that. READ: Pandering to the INC 

Now, your PR people, whoever they are, are compounding that mistake. I’m not sure if these are professionals or close friends, but your son is apparently one of them.

Tell them this:

grace poe damage1Stop sending a truncated video — labelled “FULL Grace Poe response.” when it is actually only a portion of your remarks. 

It is a representation. The actual youtube video says “clip” but your social media label is unethical because it leads people to believe the “clip” if the “full response.”

Worse, it is being used to tell journalists that reports on your reactions are wrong. And it is being used as the basis of memes aimed at “correcting” news reports.

It is not just an error of fact or a tactical miss. It is an UNETHICAL act. It tries to mislead the public when we journalists were emailed a FULL transcript of that interview by your good office. Why don’t you just release as a note the transcript you sent us so that people can judge — based on the right information?

Just to jog your memory, here’s what your office sent. I am reproducing full transcript and highlighting the portions pertaining to the INC case.


August 28, 2015

Sen. Grace Poe: ….mga estudyante marami pa talagang kailangang gawin sa kanilang mga adhikain, mga pangangailangan nila. Saka iba talaga ang enerhiya kapag mga bata kasama  mo. Yun nga edukasyon ay napakahalaga kasi nga naniniwala ako na ito ang sektor na yaman ng ating bayan. Pero hindi naman sila magiging produktibo na mamamayan kung hindi sila bibigyan ng sapat na tulong ng gobyerno. Yung unang bill ko kasi libreng pananghalian sa public schools. Hanggang ngayon ay tinutulak natin yan, sana naman ay matuloy na.

Question: Dun sa ibang interviews sa inyo, you emphasized, you always replied pagdating doon sa issue ng citizenship. Is this your way of reaching out to more audiences to explain to them ‘yung issue, rather than holding a presscon?

Poe: Oo, kasi alam mo lahat ng tao curious talaga. Ano ba talaga ang buhay nitong taong ito? Pilipino ba talaga siya? Tama lang na suriin nila ang aking pagkatao. Kaya mabuti na nanggagaling na mismo sa akin dahil hindi naman ako nagtatago ng katotohanan sa kanila. Ngayon sa batas dadaan naman tayo sa tamang proseso at hindi naman po tayo nagtatago ng kung ano pa mang kailangang malaman.

Q: Is this your way to gather more public support po?

Poe: Actually, I don’t really. Going around, I’ve been expecting people to ask me that question. But that it’s not really my intention. Hindi ko naman intensyon. Pero curious talaga sila. Yun talaga yung gusto nilang matanong kasi yun ang napapabalitaan nila na ibinabato sa akin, na ako raw ay hindi Pilipino. So at least nandito ako para ikwento sa kanila na bakit nila sinasabi na hindi ako Pilipino. Dahil hindi nila alam ang kadugo ng, kung sinuman ang biological parents ko.

Q: Ma’am, ngayon po nag-iikot po kayo sa maraming lugar ngayong linggo, bahagi na po ba ito ng paghahanda ninyo?

Poe: Kung saka-sakali malaking bagay ito kasi katulad niyan, galing ako ng Zamboanga. Kinausap natin mismo doon ang mga tao, business sector at mga internally displaced person tungkol sa BBL kung ano ang palagay nila diyan. Kasi mahirap naman na nakaupo ka sa Senado, hindi mo nakakausap yung mga taong direktang naapektuhan. Dito sa Nueva Ecija at sa Pangasinan halimbawa, apektado sila ng tagtuyot, El Niño, ano’ng kulang natin? Imprastraktura ng mga dam, ng mga water entrapment facilities. So dapat ay saksi ka sa tunay na pinagdadaanan ng iyung mga kababayan.

Q: So bahagi na po ito ng inyong paghahanda?

Poe:  Bahagi. Kasi naman pag ako ay natuloy, kapag natanong ako, ano ba sa palagay mo ang solusyon sa mga problema na yan? Eh baka hindi ko alam.

Q: Ma’am bakit dun sa mga pag-iikot mo, this week ma’am, bakit puro mga estudyante, puro bata?

Poe: Doon sa pag-iikot ko, nakakataba sa puso ko yung assurance na marami sa mga kabataan ay alam ang nangyayari sa ating gobyerno. Let us not underestimate the youth. Huwag natin silang maliitin. Huwag natin apihin ang kanilang oportunidad at pagkakataon. Katulad nga niyan, nagkaroon ng pag-uusap sa CHED. Bagama’t tumaas ang budget nila, binawasan nila ang pera para sa scholars. Eh yun ang pinakaimportante. More than other items in the budget, kailangan ay mag-invest tayo sa mga kabataan at education is the best equalizer. Nagbibigay ito ng oportunidad. E kung babawasan mo yung P300 million, sa halagang iyon parang ipinapahiwatig mo na hindi ka masyadong seryoso.

Q: Sa pag-iikot po ninyo ma’am, were you encouraged sa pagdedesisyon ninyo?

Poe: Para sa akin, ang pag-iikot kong ito, naramdaman ko ang pagmamahal. Hindi lamang nila sa akin kundi, ako sa kanila. Alam mo nakikita ko, ito yung mga pinaglaban noon ni FPJ. Kaya nga kapag sinasabi nilang inclusive growth, it means more than just, it’s not just a buzz word. Ito ang totoo na wala tayong iiwanan dapat sa ating mga paggawa ng tulong sa gobyerno. Dapat lahat ay kasama, hindi yung pipili ka lang ng sektor na uunlad.

Q: Ma’am do you have timeline po before you decide?

Poe: Before October 16.


Poe: Kasi alam mo unang-una hindi ba ako’y nakikiramay sa marami nating mga kababayan.  Alam ko lalo na ‘yung pinagdadaanan nila. Kasi sa hustiya natin sa atin, marami ang nakasampa ngayon sa DOJ. Ihihingi pa natin ng resolusyon. Alam ko hindi madali. Kaya pati na rin sa SAF44 na ngayon hinihintay natin. Siguro mas makakabuti, dahil alam ko naman si Sec. De Lima, sabi nga niya ginagawa niya yung kanyang trabaho, ay humarap siya sa mga tao na nagra-rally. Mahinahon at i-eksplika, kung ano ba’ng sitwasyon bakit nangyayari ng ganun. Kasi after all, kami naman ang nasa gobyerno ang responsibilidad naming ay maipamahagi ng maayos sa ating mga kakabayan, bakit ganun ang aming mga hakbang sa pamunuan. 

Q: Pero sa tingin niyo po ba dapat hawakan ng DOJ ang kaso?

Poe: Alam mo sa totoo lamang, maraming inaasikaso ang DOJ. Para sa akin hindi ko alam talaga lahat ng detalye tungkol diyan. Siyempre magtataka ka rin bakit ang tutok doon, samantalang, halimbawa yung ibang mga kaso ng gobyerno wala naman silang witnesses pa, na naka-hold. Halimbawa, tinatanong ko mayroon na ba kayong nakuha doon sa Mamasapano massacre? Mayroon na raw mga inimbestigahan pero wala pa namang naka-witness protection at least, sa pagkakaalam ko. 

Q: Mayroon po bang fallback ang Liberal Party in case Grace Poe decides to run for president?

Poe: I’m sure naman lahat ng partido ay naghahanda sa kahit na ano’ng contingency.

Q: Ma’am yung sa INC, even if may kidnapping issue dapat ba hindi makialam ang DOJ?

Poe: Depende kasi sa lakas ng kaso. Pagdating kasi, I think dapat transparent. Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. Thanks guys. #

That last paragraph is the pits. And here’s why.

Photo from Net25 TV's Facebook page
Photo from Net25 TV’s Facebook page

Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. (You don’t know, but you throw out, “Hindi ba free?” You want to know — how do you want to get at the truth? On the streets? Coffeeshop gossip? A meeting with De Lima? You’re a lawmaker and should know better. This is a criminal complaint, filed with prosecutors. You get the truth — or what passes for it — from a formal inquiry into the complaint.)

Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. (Excuse me? De Lima referred it — a bit late, if I say so; ask the lawyers of the complainant — to prosecutors. That is where the merits of the case are scrutinized and resolved.)

Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. (Good god, I don’t care what religion you or anyone professes. This is not about religion. This is about a criminal complaint on a very serious charge. I am hoping you do not believe that HOW “discipline” is meted out is a purely internal faith matter even when such allegedly violates the laws of this land.)

As lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles notes:

Dear Ms. Grace Poe: Sec. 3 of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act states:
3. Corrupt practices of public officers.– In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
(a) persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced or influenced to commit such violation or offense.
Now could you repeat your spiel about how the Justice Secretary needs to focus on other cases and not to take cognizance of the case for serious illegal detention filed by one Isaias Samson, Jr?

Again, you are dead wrong. Don’t add to your misery. People, including myself, respect people who promptly acknowledge mistakes and explain their new-found wisdom. This is beneath you.

HERE IS AN UPDATE: It was sent by Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. Here is his note, unedited
Inday, I sought out the interview from Nueva Ecija because somehow I got a feeling that the words from Sen. Grace Poe were just taken out of context. I was able to get hold of a clip and uploaded it on our group’s Youtube account, Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe). GGP is a volunteer citizen-led group supporting Sen. Poe and egging her to run. We were lead and co-organizers of the #TakboNaPoe event last Aug. 16. I was uploading the interview video clip while I was in the middle of a speech contest yesterday. At first I titled it “Full video…” thinking that it was. I shared it on FB and asked others to share as well too. I asked for a transcript of the video thereafter and that was when I realized that it was only a partial clip. So I changed the title right away to “Clip of Grace Poe…” on our Youtube channel. Apparently when the FB post gets shared and reposted, it retains the original title “Full clip..”. Not much of a techie but my hunch is that it is a mere technological limitation. THERE WAS NO INTENTION TO BE UNETHICAL ABOUT IT. Second, it was my intention to be transparent about the whole transcript so I also posted it wholly on the video description. This effort to clarify things for Sen. Grace Poe and to seek out the clip was borne out of the request of some GP supporters (and yes even questions from the other camp). I also wish to clarify that while I do know Brian Poe, her son, he has nothing to do with our actions. GGP is a group of willing, eager, and able volunteers who believe in Senator Grace Poe. If you wish to know us more, we will be happy to have coffee with you soon. I hope this clarifies the issue on the video. All other issues pertaining to the INC case, you may officially seek from Mam Poe’s office.