Susmariosep! Even ‘Rosebud’ is running for mayor of Manila
BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven () - November 14, 2006 - 12:00am
As predicted in this column yesterday morning, Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson announced his candidacy for mayor of Manila a few hours later – at our friend Neal Cruz’s Kapihan sa Manila.

Lacson revealed his plan to run earlier than I had expected, and alleged that he had made a decision "after much soul searching – after several restless days and sleepless nights . . ." (He should have taken valium or stilnox).

In any event, he added that his decision had been influenced by a man of the cloth, maybe the "sign" for which he had been waiting. By golly. Everybody’s claiming a call from God through one of his ministers on earth impelled their decisions – like St. Joan of Arc who heard a heavenly voice calling her to don armor and go into battle to save France and the kingdom. While Manila is far from being the kingdom of heaven, rather the equivalent of "hell’s kitchen", Lacson maintained he heeded the call. Sus, our Presidenta whom Lacson dislikes intensely has also been asserting ab initio that she gained the Presidency and kept it, owing to Divine Providence. In many other countries, they "blame the media." In our religious-minded land, they blame God.

The situation reminds me of another friend, former Executive Secretary and Pangasinan Governor Oscar Orbos, who, in his prime, most everybody believed was on a salubrious trajectory to become President. Even his late Political Turbulence, His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, God rest his soul, for a while toyed with the idea of an eventual Orbos presidency.

Alas, Oca committed the mortal sin of appearing to upstage his Boss Lady, President Corazon C. Aquino, by selling fish in Malacañang, catering to OFWs by giving their families free overseas calls to them from the Palace, and other acts of gift-giving and benevolence. Seeing Tita Cory become increasingly irritated, Frank Drilon and others who abhorred poor Orbos, planted the seed of disaffection in Cory’s ear – and lo and behold, Oca fell from grace faster than Lucifer, the once-brightest angel from heaven. (Drilon emerged with Oca’s old job of Executive Secretary – by coincidence).

Still having faith in Oca Orbos, many of us worked to get him elected Governor of Pangasinan. Alas, Oca apparently spent less time in Urduja Palace there than in Manila, particularly in one tasty bakery – he became, his detractors unkindly quipped, the Governor of Hizon bakery and coffee shop (located near the Supreme Court).

One evening, Oca arrived at my home in San Juan and cheerfully announced he was going to run for Vice-President.

"Ay, Oca!" I exclaimed. "Why don’t you run for the Senate instead – you’d stand a better chance of winning since you’re a good orator and still remembered as a national figure – but not Vice-President against powerful rivals who’ll clobber you!"

And, besides, I pointed out, he’d not been making waves in media lately, and running for Veep requires a great deal of media recall and plenty of show biz quality.

"But Max," Oca retorted, raising his eyes heavenwards, "I received a message from above . . ."

"Nonsense," I cracked less than generously, "you probably got your message only from Father Gerry Orbos!" (Father Gerry O., SVD, whom I respect and truly like, not just for his saintliness – although he gets robbed and pickpocketed even abroad – but for his terrific sense of humor, is Oca’s brother).

In any event, the messenger from Heaven never delivered. For, as I had feared, Oca Orbos ran for Vice-President and came in a poor third. Oh well. To win, you’ve got to work at it in Philippine politics, not depend entirely on the benediction of the Almighty.

Ora et labora, as they used to say in Latin.

As for Ping Lacson, of course he’s a fine crime fighter, gutsy, eloquent, and intelligent – but why is he running as an Independent (hence, no election inspectors?) Aside from spoiling things for his friend, Senator Fred Lim, a former Manila mayor, DILG Secretary, and crime-fighter, too, what will his candidacy accomplish? As I pointed out in yesterday morning’s column, Fred and Ping may cancel each other out, and seriously damage the chances of Mayor Lito Atienza’s boy the "Son Also Rises" Ali Atienza.

No wonder, Lacson’s nemesis (in her own mind), controversial former secret agent and anti-drug witness, Mary "Rosebud" Ong quickly announced, after Lacson’s Kapihan declaration, that she would run for mayor, too. How could Rosebud hope to win – she has far less "independent" means than Ping’s or any other candidate. Ha – Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption stated he would support Ong in her candidacy. Guess Rosebud will get at least 200 votes, after all – unless the Comelec (which remains a nuisance in itself) nixes her out as a "nuisance candidate."

How we trivialize our political process in this country. I guess that’s what freedom implies – the freedom of any citizen to run for any political position, and the freedom of all to make fools of themselves.

But what the heck. One has to take a Bar exam to become a lawyer. A medical board exam to become a doctor. A nursing board exam to become a nurse. Nobody has to take an exam, not even an I.Q. test, or drug test, to become a President, a Senator, a Congressman, a governor, a mayor, etc. Or – for that matter – to become a journalist.
* * *
La Presidenta, after all (I wuz mistaken), is not going to Hanoi, Vietnam, until next Friday to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

There she will meet with US President George W. Bush in a pre-scheduled one-on-one. By that time, hopefully, the US President will have somewhat recovered from the shell-shock of an overwhelming Democratic Party win, with the opposition legislators seizing control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time since 1994. Such repudiation on a massive scale had been predicted in the poll surveys, but Mr. Bush and his Vulcans had not totally believed it, fuming that the media and the critics had got it wrong, and had been celebrating prematurely from the "End Zone." Alas for Dubya, the end was really waiting for him and his Republicans at the End Zone – and Rummy had to go.

What about Iraq? Neither the new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nor new Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem to want a precipitate withdrawal which would savage America’s image of strength and invite terrorist attacks, similar to 9/11, on the home front – but they’re already whispering about an exit strategy. And "exit" they must, if you ask me – the question is how and when.

"Staying the course" would only sink the Americans (and their Brit and Aussie Allies) deeper into the quagmire – or the quicksand. They’re loathe to create a vacuum, however, for unfriendly forces are eagerly waiting in the wings – while sniping away – to fill that vacuum. The heck with Iraq’s oil – it’s the hopelessness of a situation in which there is really no "Iraq," only a scorched land riven with bitter sectarian forces, Shiite versus Sunni versus Kurds, bent on destroying each other. It’s an Uncivil War in which American families don’t want their husbands, wives, sons and daughters in uniform caught in the crossfire, or in the maw of roadside or suicide bombings.

Somehow America survived the humiliation of Vietnam, and somehow, by remaining vigilant at home and ready-to-rumble abroad, they’ll overcome the humiliation and disappointment of Iraq.

In Hanoi, La Gloria’s minders are also trying to arrange off-the-cuff meetings with Russia’s Vladimir Putin (who’s invited her to Moscow, remember?), the Prime Minister of host Vietnam, of course; and other chiefs of state. After four days at the APEC, however, La Presidenta will fly south to Singapore for an undisclosed purpose. Whether her stay of two days there will include a meeting with ASEAN partner, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, or Pater Familias, Founding Tatay Lee Kuan Yew, is still unknown. Singapore, in case you hadn’t noticed, is our most aggressive partner in the war against Islamic terrorism, while our other neighbors often merely pay lip service to it.

In truth, we’re the weakest link ourselves.

Yesterday, the ambassadors of some of our allies in the war against global terrorism, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Ambassador Peter Beckingham of the United Kingdom, Ambassador Tony Hely of Australia, Ambassador Peter Sutherland of Canada, Ambassador David Pine of New Zealand, and Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki of Japan, flew down to Zamboanga City for a briefing and were told by our AFP Western Mindanao Command chief, Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo that the military has the terrorists on the run, "but they are resilient and do regenerate."

There’s only thing to do. Keep on fighting. I’ve repeated ad nauseam the Ramon Magsaysay formula when he was our fightingest Secretary of Defense: Find ‘em, Fool ‘em, Fight ‘em – Finish ‘em. The four F’s which helped Magsaysay break the back of the Communist Huk rebellion.

Sadly, the Communist NPAs are back, still a force to be reckoned with, even if they’re degenerated into well-armed bandits, extortionists, blackmailers and murderous bullies.
* * *
I had a long talk yesterday with Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza and he said that, come hell or high water, the NAIA Terminal-3 (reinforced ceilings and all) will be inaugurated for operation on April 5 next year.

I hope they can fix that mediocre terminal built by PIATCO and Fraport so it won’t collapse prematurely.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport, alas, is already too small – it has only one runway plus one taxiway. What an inadequate international airport, Larry Mendoza himself admitted, since it has an annual capacity of receiving only 13 million passengers, while Bangkok’s new airport can now accommodate 45 million annually, Malaysia’s airport 25 million – with a projected increase of capacity to 35 million. Vietnam is building a bigger airport at Tan Son Nhat capable of taking in 20 to 25 million passengers yearly. Singapore and Hong Kong, naturally, are light years ahead of us.

DOTC Secretary Mendoza and this writer spoke about the inevitability of moving the international airport to Angeles City – to the former Clark air base, now named Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. Every airline which flies to Manila has simultaneously an "entitlement" to use Clark, Mendoza reminded me. The former Clark airfield has two splendid runways built by the US military – and a third runway is being planned by the DOTC, he revealed. A bigger airport and new terminal buildings must be constructed ASAP, especially, it was noted since Philippine Airlines (PAL) is acquiring six Boeing B-777s.

What’s the timetable? There’s the rub. I propose the move ought to be projected as swiftly as humanly possible. "Humanly possible" in our land, however, could stretch from in a few years – to eternity.

Mendoza admits that Clark (Diosdado Macapagal Airport) has the safest and most spacious landing condition in Asia – an area of 29,000 hectares of flat land, with no tall mountains around it to act as a hindrance or a source of peril. Not even Mt. Pinatubo is giving any ominous puff of smoke. So what are we waiting for?

Already, there’s a bus shuttle service which takes less than an hour – not the 30 minutes the DOTC wallahs sometimes brag about. The right of way has been cleared of squatters, and it’s all systems go for a fast railroad. So, let’s go! That’s what I’d say.

On that upbeat note, I’ll conclude today’s column.

AIRPORT ALI ATIENZA END ZONE LA PRESIDENTA LACSON MENDOZA OCA OCA ORBOS ONE PRESIDENT
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