Straight from the columnist's mouth

- Alexa Villano -

MANILA, Philippines - With every topic comes controversy — and controversy sometimes chase the columnists of The Philippine STAR. Straight from them, here are some of the most memorable topics tackled:

Jarius Bondoc (Gotcha) - My most talked about columns were my exposés on: the P303-million unexplained wealth of Armed Forces comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, which I broke on Oct. 4, 2004; and the ZTE scam, a national broadband network contracted for $329 million in which there was a $200-million kickback (“tong-pats”), which led to a Senate inquiry from 2007 to 2008.

Although the exposés endanger the security of my family, they were nonetheless very fulfilling.

The Garcia series led to reforms in the military. Soldiers would come up to me in camps or malls to thank me that new boots and better weaponry finally were being issued to them because of stricter finance management.

The ZTE exposé saved the country P17 billion in padded loans, which we and our children would have had to pay over 15 years. It emboldened whistleblowers to come out: Joey de Venecia, Jun Lozada, Dante Madriaga. My series was enriched by no less than three-dozen sources: engineers, technologists, finance and government men, both in the Philippines and abroad.

Carmen Pedrosa (From A Distance) - The column about President Noynoy entitled The clincher: Ninoy himself sought psychiatric help for Noynoy. It was published on April 24, 2010.

The issue was about the mental fitness of PNoy to be the president of 90 million Filipinos. It was close to the May 10 elections and many Filipinos agreed with the column that it was a legitimate concern. I was in the US when I received the information from a reliable source. She was a mutual friend of the psychiatrist and myself. She was apolitical and I trusted her story. This was corroborated by friends of the doctor, Stephen Aguilar through email. I suppose it was because it was so close to the election and there were already rumors about his mental fitness.

 I was told that the column elicited so much interest that there were a million hits for STAR. I was interviewed and a film was made on Youtube. More than 30,000 viewed the interview in two days.

Atty. Jose Sison (A Law Each Day) - Generally my topics are not controversial because they deal with decisions of the Supreme Court which, under our rule of law, finally and conclusively settles either or both of those issues. So readers do not question my writings on these topics anymore even if they disagree with them because they are already considered part of the law of the land. All they can do perhaps is talk about them.

But in other topics the most controversial and most talked about is the proposed RH bill that has deeply divided the country because: (1) the opposing sides advance arguments and cite sources and authorities which directly clash with each other and which both sides insist are correct; (2) each side refuses to accept and see the authenticity of the data and the findings cited by either of them. For example, scientific and medical findings have already established that life begins when the sperm unites with the ovum to form a fertilized egg or at moment of conception but the pros still insist that life begins at the implantation of the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb so as to justify the use of contraceptives that actually prevents such implantation which already constitutes abortion; (3) the bill has been pending in Congress for more than ten years now and has not been voted upon by our legislators; and (4) legal experts are divided on the question of its constitutionality so that even if Congress passes the bill, the issue may still reach the SC.

Next controversial and most talked about are the “Hello Garci” election scandal, the Joc-Joc Bolante fertilizer fund scam and the NBN-ZTE deal because of the flagrant manner they were committed, the huge amount involved and the great shock caused on the public due to the realization that “lying, cheating and stealing” can be committed with impunity by highly placed officials of the land.

Another controversial topic is the amendment of our Constitution and the particular provisions therein that should be amended. This is controversial because: (a) the pros and cons seem to have good and valid reasons on why it should or should not be amended; (b) they could not agree on the particular mode of amending the charter; and (c) there appears to be endless debates and disagreements on which provisions are to be amended like whether we should shift to a federal from the present unitary form of government; whether we should have a parliamentary instead of the existing presidential form and whether we should have a unicameral or bicameral Congress even if we retain the presidential form of government.

Then there are also exceptional cases already resolved by the SC that still give rise to more controversies especially because they appear to be contrary to the clear provisions of law, or its interpretations of some ambiguous provisions defy equity, fairness, logic and right reason. Examples here are the decision affirming the appointment of Justice Corona as SC Chief Justice even if it was made within two months preceding an election which is clearly prohibited by the constitution; the flip flopping resolutions on the cityhood of some municipalities; and the decision voiding the sale of Manila Hotel to a consortium with a Malaysian company on the ground that it is a historical site that should be owned only by Filipinos.

Some actions of Congress are also controversial foremost of which are the resolutions junking several impeachment complaints against former president GMA by sheer force of number of Congressmen voting along partisan lines than by the strength of the reasons and arguments supporting the dismissal of the complaints.

The latest most controversial issue is of course the PCSO expose of the “Pajero Bishops” that maligned not only the seven prelates allegedly involved but the entire Catholic Church hierarchy. This is highly controversial not only because of the malicious twisting of facts by the PCSO management but also because there is apparently a deeper plot to spin the Pajero story to weaken the Church stand against the RH Bill controversy.

Ernesto Maceda (Search for the Truth) - When asked about his most talked about topic, Maceda says it is the “16 Major Concerns”, column dated Dec. 30, 2010 because ‘it is an exhaustive list of what President Aquino should attend to.’ “

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