1. Surprise! Now this is a test…

     Retired police chief Jesus Verzosa and Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno have been named as “ultimate recipients” of jueteng money at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

    Verzosa and Puno were among those in the list submitted by Archbishop Oscar Cruz and read by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

    The same list named the following operators of the multi-billion-peso illegal numbers game: Lilia “Baby” Pineda in Pampanga; Paul Dy in Isabela; retired general Eugene Martin and Mayor Domogan in Baguio; Danny Soriano in Cagayan; a retired general Padilla in Pasay, Paranaque, Muntinlupa, and San Pedro; a governor Espino in Pangasinan; and a Boy Jalandoni in Bacolod.

    Ex-PNP chief, DILG Exec named

    The hostage crisis was not a test of Aquino’s political leadership.

    This and the aftermath of the crisis are; especially now that the key figures in the debacle have been clearly and concisely identified; along with their individual responsibilities and errors in judgement.

    So, now the onus is on Aquino. While it was fun and games to try and blame the bloodbath on Aquino, that was just typical political grandstanding and BS. This is actually where the mettle of the administration will be discovered.

    Lim is a long-time ally of the mother and family; Puno a long-time friend; Versoza has been making noises behind the scenes about taking high-level civilian leadership (something I disagree completely with).

    Balls now in Aquino’s court. How clean does he really want his government to be? And does accountability have a place, other than in soundbites and cliches.

    Ah yes, now this is where the real fun begins.

    Oh and the rest of the names, let me count the ways I am surprised.

    Damn. Couldn’t get past zero.


  2. "

    In a press conference, Aquino said the IIRC found the following liable for the botched rescue of Hong Kong tourists at the Quirino Grandstand:

    Then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Verzosa;
    Then Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay, who served as ground commander;
    National Capital Region Police office chief Leocadio Santiago;
    Hostage negotiator Manila Superintendent Orlando Yebra;
    DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno;
    Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual, head of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team;
    Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
    Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III;
    TV5’s Erwin Tulfo;
    Radio Mo Nationwide’s (RMN) Michael Rogas;
    Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim
    Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno
    3 broadcast networks


  3. Thanks to @juanrepublic for originally posting.

    I have already skimmed through it a bit. Though looking forward to getting more of the details later tonight.

    I hope people do take the time to read through it. It is fairly concise (yes, believe it or not), well-ordered and clear in its language and detailing of the events that lead to the bloody debacle.

    Overall, I think it is a fairly well-balanced report. Though, I can well imagine that certain segments of the public sphere will take umbrage with the fact that the national government and the President are not the sole beneficiaries of the blame.

    Ah, Edsel Lagman I can already hear your dulcet tones crying foul and cover-up.

    Yet, anyone with a modicum of common sense and maybe a  bit of background in crisis management (though the two are not mutually inclusive) who watched the situation unfold and followed the aftermath realized that the majority of responsibility lay with the local officials and the PNP on the ground staff.

    Which is exactly what is laid out in the report. What I was surprised to see is that Mayor Alfredo Lim is singled-out in multiple locations for his culpability. Not surprised that he had a hand (he did), but that he was actually identified. In my mind, this indicates that the substance of the report was not the victim of pressure from on high. Remember, Lim has been a long-time supporter of the Aquinos.

    Though, we have yet to see what comes of it.

    One of the most important parts of the report though is that it identified the lack of procedures and protocols for handling these types of situations. Further, the flawed procedures they had on file were not even followed. The loose cannon type approach I believe held sway here.

    There is a section on media culpability that I am sure will get some airplay. But, on the balance, I believe it is fair in the handling of the situation. It rightly points out there both the PNP (for failing to cordon off areas and corral the media properly) and the media members themselves (for failing to follow journalism guidelines with regards to crisis situations) are guilty in this respect.

    For those who want to skip to the meat of the report, they do lay out eight critical junctures of failures. But I hope that everyone does read it all the way through.

    I know I will be again.

    PS: By the way, I can well understand the Aquino administrations releasing the report to the Chinese government diplomatically, before releasing it in publicly. This is a carefully orchestrated diplomatic olive branch and sign of conciliation. This was from the Philippine government on behalf of the Filipino people; we should treat it as such.

    Besides, we had to wait, what a few hours? And I am almost positive that those who were bitching the most are the least likely to actually read it.


  4. ellobofilipino:

    I have to beg your indulgence Nik but I would like to insert some of my comments on your comments as well. I too did find myself reacting to some of the questions posed by the members of the tri-network interview with President Aquino earlier.

    To mirror @mokidoki (awww…shucks, thank you!) please click the above link for Kim’s most insightful comments.

    And yes, apologies for being a day late in reblogging this.  What I am very thankful @ellobofilipino added was that national perspective, that I believe we up here need to be reminded of. Occasionally (heh), Manilenos fall into the trap of believing that the national government is essentially the National Capital Regions government. In the area, granted we have approximately what 20% of the national population and 33% of GDP production; yet the majority of Filipinos live outside of this urban area. This is why, when we continually hammer on the point of the need for empowering local government, it’s because we are considering the rest of the Philippines as well.

    As @ellobofilipino said, when hostages have been taken in Mindanao or elsewhere in the country (as the other day, which was resolved successfully) I do not particularly remember this type of political noise and agitation concerning the role of ‘national government’ being so high.

    And as he rightly points out, the hostage taker was a product of a flawed system, along with the local government response as well. To forget that and engage in political shenanigans that are on-going is to preserve the status quo.


  5. On Maria Ressa’s WSJ piece

    @boyexpert first posted about the Wall Street Journal piece courtesy of Maria Ressa earlier today. I posted a few cursory comments on it and was going to leave it at that. But the piece kind of stuck in my head. Her column in its entirety can be read at ABS-CBN’s website.

    It was with surprise that I read the Wall Street Journal piece by Maria Ressa earlier today. Surprise in part because of who wrote it and additionally on its structure and overarching theme. The quality of the analysis left something to be desired.  It reminded me of old-fashioned yellow journalism actually.

    On to the analysis…

    In multiple locations she drives home this point that President Noynoy Aquino is his mothers son; utilizing this now flawed, yet accepted view, that Cory was a well intentioned bungler. A charge that is contextually untrue in part, yet she leverages for her argument. It is an attempt to frame Aquino in the worst possible light, an incompetent who thinks with his heart not his head. And with the generally accepted perception of Cory Aquino as being just that, her linking of the two, especially with regards to this piece, is unsurprising. As I’ve written in this space in the past, I have felt that situating Cory Aquino within the context of the period actually improves her performance as president. But, that is not a popular belief, nor relevant to what Ressa is attempting.

    By the way, this is not an impassioned defense of the Aquino legacy, or Noynoy’s presidency. In this instance and in this specific critique by Maria Ressa I find serious fault. As with politicians who I have also singled out, there appears to be either an attempt to leverage this tragedy for political means or some sense of defense and the reshaping of public narrative.

    Very early in the piece we are clued in to a possible agenda in the piece: a defense of the media, an exoneration of you will through specious arguments and disinformation. It is not so much and impassioned critique, but an attempt to shift blame on an easy target in the current political climate.

    "His first instinct was to blame the national media for covering the event live, a sentiment that citizens in the blogosphere and on Twitter quickly echoed. "

    Within this context her agenda in the column is very clear and, in truth, the insinuations and half-truth becomes understandable. And I am tickled by her subtle jab at the blogosphere, insinuating something about our opinions.

    The truth is, as I’ve said, there is more than enough blame to be apportioned. Though again, my suspicion is she is trying to change the course of the narrative away from media mix-ups and refocusing solely on en vogue Aquino criticisms.

    "During the crisis, Mr. Puno exerted almost no leadership, preferring to let the local police handle the situation. There was little crowd control, and a local radio station was allowed to speak to the hostage-taker in the final moments of the crisis. During the later hearings, Mr. Puno said, "I am not capable of handling hostage situations… I am not trained to do that"

    As it should be. Her fervent wish, obviously littered throughout this hit piece seems to boil down to a desire for some sort of totalitarian control exerted from the national government. One that I do not believe she actually holds. Yet the insinuation of such a form of leadership provides her with ready ammunition to criticize the current national government. Which is curious enough in itself. She goes out of her way to detail the failings of the current administration, without putting the failings of the relevant institutions within some sort of historical context. Almost as if these problems only exist because of the Aquino administration (except for a throw-away line in the beginning saying he promised to reform institutions).

    Further, this demand that an almost cabinet level secretary exert operational control over the PNP leadership, as opposed to governmental administrative control, is head scratching as best. Based on her comments, I would hazard that almost all secretaries are ill placed as they are not in trained to effectively handle all aspects of the jobs that employees of their attached agencies may be engaged. This as akin to lobbying for the removal of a President because he is not trained in guerilla warfare tactics.

    Again, what I find curious is she is basically ignoring the chain of command, linking activities that take place on a ground level with cabinet and presidential level concerns. If that were the case, then we should expect the Secretary of the DILG and the President to be planning out and mapping counter-terrorism activities in Mindanao. Or is direct national government oversight only applicable in Manila?

    "To add insult to injury, the authorities in charge left the scene to eat in a nearby Chinese restaurant precisely when the killings began"

    From the get go she essentially establishes that no culpability lies with the PNP and Manila city by purposefully excluding their names. For no blame is applied to anyone on the ground or in local government, period. The only figures identified in thence are national government officials. By inference saying that they were the ones who abandoned the scene of the tragedy. It again is a curious construction of a column and essay. The only names mentioned, ignoring media activities, negotiators, police chiefs, PNP officials, City of Manila government and so on, are Jessie Robredo, Noynoy Aquino, Rico E. Puno and the communications team of Malacanang.

    When politicians become involved in these types of tense situations, we get disaster. Plain and simple. Those who are supposedly trained to handle these situations should be. Simple. Yet, here we have an instance where politics, on a local level, did get involved and it resulted in tragedy. In hindsight, we could wish for Aquino on a white horse to come charging into save the day. To hold the national government solely and wholly responsible is false.

    The piece ends with a wearingly familiar litany of the faults of Cory Aquino and Noynoy Aquino. Describing them as easy-going and well liked. By inference I am guessing with little fire in their bellies for the harsh realities of Philippine politics. Yet, within 100 days (we have not even hit that mark) the Aquino administration has some feathers in their cap (and more than few missteps). Ah yes, but those broader successes do not play into the narrative that she attempting to form here.

    The government, national and local, has their share of blame in this tragedy. But, what I find completely disingenuous is her attempts to reframe the national government as the sole entity of responsibility. She uses disinformation to try and craft this type of argument. This is more a diatribe than discourse; disinformation than fact-based analysis and reporting.

    And in her apparent zeal to criticize Aquino through any means, she further muddies the issue, adding little. As I have said, my suspicion is that she is attempting to distract from media’s culpability in this tragedy. What I find curious is why, in doing this, she is also exonerating the PNP and the City of Manila for any errors or mistakes.

    This is a disservice, plain and simple. It is elements of traditional yellow journalism indeed.


    If I may come off as defending the Aquino administration, that is not my intent. I am trying to demonstrate how this specific piece appears to be driven by ulterior motives and, as such, does little to further the conversation. As I have repeatedly said, there is blame and responsibility aplenty to be passed around. And the national government  has its share as well.

    This type of superficial analysis does nothing to ensure that responsibility is correctly identified and apportioned. While it is part of the discourse, it is a part that adds little in truth.

    The conversation must be focused on identifying and correcting extant issues will fail; and we will see this type of tragedy again. This piece does not help in that regard, in my opinion.


  6. In cases of hijacking, kidnapping, hostage taking and sieges we must be aware that anything we broadcast or publish may be seen or heard by the perpetrators, both in the UK and overseas.

    It is important that we report demands in context. We should also consider carefully the ethical issues raised by providing a platform to hijackers, kidnappers or hostage takers, especially if they make direct contact. We must remain in editorial control of the reporting of events and ensure that:

    • we do not interview a perpetrator live on air.
    • we do not broadcast any video and/or audio provided by a perpetrator live on air.
    • we broadcast recordings made by perpetrators, whether of staged events, violent acts or their victims, only after referral to a senior editorial figure.
    • we install a delay when broadcasting live material of sensitive stories, for example a school siege or plane hijack. This is particularly important when the outcome is unpredictable and we may record distressing material that is unsuitable for broadcast without careful editing.

    When reporting stories relating to hijacking, kidnapping, hostage taking or sieges we must listen to advice from the police and other authorities about anything which, if reported, could exacerbate the situation. Occasionally they will ask us to withhold or even to include information. We will normally comply with a reasonable request, but we will not knowingly broadcast anything that is untrue. The police may even request a complete news black-out. The BBC procedure for dealing with such requests must be followed.

    In listening to the Tulfo protestations concerning the actions of media members during the hostage crisis was reminded of this.

    While this may be late to the discourse, I do not find the argument of media needing to report all sides of the story holds any water. And those journalists who continually try and shift focus and apportioning of responsibility away from media are doing a disservice to future coverage of hostage-taking.

    This is no longer about the here and now, it is ensuring that situations such as this do not happen again. Protestations to the contrary and refusals to engage in self-analysis (for all parties) ensure that this will not be a one-off event; but something we may see again.

    Entities which are cognizant of their responsibilities have clear-cut guidelines for coverage and journalistic integrity. They police themselves. Note that the above BBC guidelines lay out specific rules separate from what entities in authority request.

    The words of Apolinario Mabini were not only targeted towards government or individuals; it is applicable to entities in positions of responsibility as well. Freedom is not the right to do as you please.

    I am a staunch advocate of the freedom of the press. But freedom must be tempered with an understanding of responsibilities and effects of actions. My critiques of this specific incident should not be equated to a desire to abrogate the freedom of the press. Far from it. It is a hope that, as the press requests for government and politicians to engage in responsible decision making, so to should the press be a leader in this regard. As one of the deans of Philippine journalism said; the press can not only be a pillar of a free society, it can be one of the guiding lights for the future.

    PS: This saving lives vs ‘keeping people informed’ is a BS line of thinking. The question is whether they should have been live with the guy in the first place, not if they were asking the right questions.

    Of course they are not going to know what they say. They weren’t trained for this. Which is kind of the point.


  7. The WSJ, Ressa and Aquino



    In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, ABS-CBN Head of News and Current Affairs Maria Ressa wrote that President Noynoy Aquino’s “bungled handling of (the Quirino Grandstand) hostage crisis exposes his weak political leadership.” The article, headlined “Noynoy Flunks His First Test,” details how Aquino’s “early political compromises are exacerbating problems in the weak institutions he’s promised to reform.”

    People have always admired your journalism when you were in CNN but this opinion piece leaves much to be desired. I expected more from you rather than a sweeping and premature judgment on a new president that has not even warmed his seat. Granted, there is politics and squabbling in the palace but these kinds of things are but normal and its par for the course in the corridors of power anywhere you go even here in the United States.

    There has been an amalgam of opinions regarding this piece. One thing’s for sure, Crab Mentality is far from being eliminated in our society. Dissing is an art. In this case, it’s a canvas of overkill.

    Via The Wall Street Journal


    You know what I loathe about this article? It’s a Filipino writing for an international publication. It’s very self-defeating in every sense.

    As well. I am also surprised at the lack of perspective demonstrated.

    One of the chief criticisms raised continually against GMA was her undermining of democratic institutions and micro-management; yet here Ressa criticizes Aquino for staying out and not micromanaging from afar. He let the professionals who were supposed to be competent and well-trained do the job.

    As we are seeing with the Tulfo issue, when those untrained and inexperienced get involved in these types of circumstances disaster happens. We can argue back and forth about where media control should have been initially exerted, but the fact is that aptly demonstrates what happens when non-professionals get involved. Additionally, this hilarious ‘crisis management committee’ is a joke. As I said before, politicians should only be involved in these situations in a final decision-making process when necessary. 

    I am trying to find a single example in which a President in another country got involved in a hostage negotiation, circumventing the chain of command if you will.

    So, is this some sort of backhanded compliment to the micro-managing pseudo-dictatorial leadership style of GMA? Because that seems to be the type of managerial style she is advocating. For me, the sense not only in this article but around is that Aquino is culpable because he did not ride in on a white horse to save the day. That is a frankly illogical and romanticized view of the presidency. One disassociated from the actualities of a functioning government and its attached institutions.

    These types of criticisms reflect a shallow vantage point, more informed by perpetuated systemic flaws, of the presidency and national government. This tragedy is a reflection of weak local government institutions; institutions that the 1960s have been less empowered in performing their duties. But then again, it’s much easier in our political discourse to blame, blame and blame some more, even if illogical, than analyze and inform. 

    This idea that weak institutions require additional presidential oversight, even on a city level, is the exact opposite of institution building. As opposed to utilizing the situation as an example of the legion of issues facing the government, she turns it on its head as an impassioned and slightly illogical critique of a President who has been in office for less than 100 days. Or, it is possible that she was one of those kool-aid drinkers who believed that just electing someone not GMA will make everything wine and roses again. I doubt that, though it may hold true for some.

    This lack of perspective, failing to situate the crisis within the framework of undermined and weak institutions and instead jumping on the du jour bandwagon of Aquino bashing does a disservice to discourse.


  8. Round and round they go

    I’m not quite sure why I am subjecting myself to these hearings, especially in light of all of the work I have to finish. Finish? I mean start. I guess it’s a vain hope that something informative or at least illuminating will come out of them.

    But, it’s become apparent this is a hot potato situation. Whoever ends up holding it when the the timer (hearings) ends is SOL.

    From some limited experience with disaster management and crisis planning, once you get the politicians involved, whatever good could have been done is undone. And that is pretty much one of the major faults of these protocols. Decision-making powers were not vested with those with the training or understanding of handling situations (or at least those who are supposed to be) but rested with committees and political players. Gentlemen who, no matter how well intentioned, will bungle the situation because they lack the training or experience.

    What is becoming clear is that the MPD/PNP and so forth are not trained nor empowered to make decisions. They automatically look up the line or to their patrons for solutions. Patronage politics played a role in this tragedy. From the corruption that stole the equipment and training away from the SWAT teams to the palpable sense of discontinuity in the chain of command. What we have to remember is that tragedies like this are reflective of a failed and flawed system; not necessarily just individual responsibilities. Though, to personal responsibility, I would again ask: If they have neither the training, the equipment or the proper contextual and procedural environment in which to operate how much can be realistically expected? Much, as always. As it should be. But less than what could be.

    But of course, we need scapegoats. It’s how the current culture operates. Blame has to be assigned to someone. And now the political vultures are in play, bending the tragedy for personal gain. For example, now they are circling the political corpse that is Jessie Robredo. Yes, this was under his department, but how is it responsibility has leap-frogged the MPD, the city of Manila and the PNP leadership to the head of the DILG? We have heard the bleating of the GMA acolytes saying that under her rule she would never have allowed this to happen. She would have been hands on.

    That is precisely the problem. Government and democratic institutions were so undermined, command responsibility so removed from those on who it should have rested over the last nine years that the whole thing is broken. Micro-management from the presidency does not a functioning system make. It is reminiscent of dictatorship. In a back-handed way, they have just admitted that.

    On the ground leadership is a must in disaster response. People must be trained and must be aware of their options and outlets in these types of situations. The one that is getting the most play is shooting him. But it is not a situation of shoot to kill, but shoot to disarm. This is frequently a last option, but it is an option. That this option was continually put off reflects the state of the decision making process. Not to mention the fact that a committee of politicians held sway over the whole process. Politicians are there to decide, not plan out.

    The fact is, they are going to try and find scapegoats, they are going to try and pin this on certain individuals. Yet at the end of the day, the system as it is presently constructed, as it rests after twenty four years, is the real culprit. And that includes (though not in equal parts) the PNP, the media and the politicians. Blame will be easily affixed. Fixing the situation will not.