TV host and former National Economic Development Authority chief Prof. Winnie Monsod did a “Matutina” lately. Matutina was the comedienne in the defunct TV sitcom “John en Marsha” that starred the legendary comedy tandem of Dolphy and Nida Blanca.
Matutina played the role of the house helper of Marsha’s mother, Doña Delilah, played by the comedienne Dely Atay-atayan. The usual antic of Matutina in the show was to sweep the floor around the house for cash to emphasize Doña Delilah’s wealth.
Monsod, who hosts the GMA TV public affairs show “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie,” did not just literally sweep the floor of her house in Quezon City for money. She just happened to find some misplaced cash while doing the needed general cleaning and decluttering of her place.
In a Zoom interview with Pep.ph on Thursday, Monsod revealed that she found a total P100,000 while fixing her “black hole.”
She wasn’t very proud of her home, with papers and her shoes scattered around every nook and cranny of the study room. In the bathroom, the sink was not functional, since it was filled with many things and the faucet was broken. But the good part of the cleanup was finding $600 from the back of something. That’s the equivalent of more than P29,000 with the current dollar-peso exchange rate.
That was just for starters. Fixing her drawers, she found another P25,000. She had forgotten what the money was for and why was it there.
As she was narrating her windfall, one of her colleagues who joined the Zoom interview, GMA News TV broadcaster Kara David, offered to be her housekeeper in jest. Monsod also recalled her children expressing regret of not cleaning their mom’s place before after she told them of her finds.
The P25,000 was not the last of Monsod’s housekeeping windfall. In another drawer, she found the jackpot worth $1,000. That drawer is where she keeps her underwear. Talk about “delicates!”
Cayetano to lose seat?
Calls to declare all seats vacant in the House of Representatives grew louder over the weekend as its leadership scrambled to douse a fire sparked by the uneven distribution of project funds.
This sent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s office in a frenetic race to call the lawmakers so that he could regroup his forces as his post has suddenly become untenable.
He is also reportedly meeting with Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, tomorrow for an assurance that he stays as the top House leader.
While staying silent on the issue that presently conflagrates the House, the young Duterte is seen as one having a strong voice in the Chamber.
House sources are in unison in claiming that Cayetano is reneging on his promise to vacate his seat at the end of October as part of his term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
He even asked President Duterte’s blessing so that he could stay put middle of this week. He got a vague answer.
But Cayetano’s hold on the speakership is still being shaken by a growing number of congressmen who found his and his wife Lani’s separate districts in Taguig City as recipients of big funds for infrastructure projects courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Several congressmen are now saying the Cayetanos’ Taguig City is getting P12 billion in DPWH projects.
Cayetano’s close ally, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, meanwhile, is said to be a recipient of P11.8-billion infrastructure funds.
Daily Tribune was able to obtain a list of some of the Cayetanos’ infrastructure projects in Taguig City.
These are just 21 of their projects worth P3,179,680,000 which have been listed in the 2021 National Expenditure Program of the government.
Set for construction are: Multi-purpose building and site development at Lakeshore in Lower Bicutan (P195,500,000); multi-purpose building at Western Bicutan (P153,000,000); site development of multi-purpose baseball stadium at Barangay Ususan (P255,000,000); Cayetano Sports Complex at Bagumbayan (P212,500,000); multi-purpose building at Barangay Sta. Ana (P59,500,000);
Multi-purpose building and facilities at Calzada Tipaz (127,500,000); multi-purpose building and integrated parking terminal with park facility at Central Bicutan (P297,500,000); multi-purpose building and site development (SPED center) at Calzada Tipaz (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Camp Bagong Diwa, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P204,000,000);
Multi-purpose building and site development at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building and site development at Bambang (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Bagong Tanyag (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Central Signal (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Pinagsama (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Upper Bicutan (P59,500,000);
Multi-purpose government center at Lower Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose and site development (P212,500,000); multi-purpose sports stadium (P204,680,000), and Taguig City Parola at Napindan (P272,000,000).
These projects are under DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, son of Nacionalista Party (NP) power couple Manny (a former senator) and incumbent Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Cayetano and Villafuerte are both leading members of the NP.
These figures have sent the other congressmen seething as majority of them were allocated only P2 billion each in projects or less.
Total allocation for the Visayas bloc, meanwhile, is only eight percent of the 2021 budget.
Cayetano, however, was said to have tried making amends with several congressmen on Friday and Saturday, assuring them of equitable shares from the still unused 2020 budget.
“He’s in a panic and was trying to appease the congressmen,” a Tribune source said. “Many are up in arms because only a few of them are getting billions of pesos in allocations while the rest have not been released.”
Some of these funds were supposedly from the budgets turned over by the different agencies to the Executive Department which were earlier repurposed for the COVID-19 battle.
The money which could not be released this year were supposedly put in the 2021 budget.
“Now, they’re trying to release the funds for the projects intended for 2020,” the source said. “These are funds branded as FLR or For Late Release.”
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, meanwhile, branded the FLR as “unconstitutional and pure nonsense”
“There were no FLR when I was in Congress from 2007 to 2016. When I returned in 2019, I came to know of these FLR,” he stated.
“The Constitution provides for line item budgeting. The items aproved in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) should all be released. These FLR become the discretionary funds of the DPWH as to which district it will release to,” he added.
“If the line items are approved by the GAA in Congress, they should all be released. No ifs, no buts. This FLR scheme should be stopped, discontinued and set aside,” Rodriguez emphasized.
Another congressman, however, was more curt when he said: “Cayetano should enjoy his days as House Speaker. They may end very soon.”
EU threat alarming, says think tank
The head of a think tank in the Philippines on Saturday revealed that the threat of the European Union (EU) to revoke tariff incentives on Manila’s exports over human rights concerns is alarming particularly in this time of a pandemic.
In a statement, Dindo Manhit — the president of Stratbase ADR Institute — said losing a market would lead to unemployment, thus aggravating poverty and it would come at a bad time since the Philippine economy has been dragged into recession by the lingering coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We cannot afford to lose an export market at this time. If you lose a market, even if its not that big, it would still hit the income of the country. There could be job loss and this could worsen poverty,” Manhit said.
To recall, the European Parliament called for a review of the tariff incentives extended to Manila citing human rights abuses and the deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines.
Manhit stressed that it would be bad for the country if the EU will remove it because of issues of human rights violations and attacks against media and journalists, adding that the loss of an export market would mean less opportunity to sell Philippine products and could also impact jobs and push medium enterprises in the country to closure.
“Let’s hope this won’t happen and that the government listens to this kind of resolution,” Manhit said.
The think tank head also noted that it would be better if the government responds and not simply dismiss it as there are already fears that some export firms might lose their business.
Previously, Malacañang dared EU’s lawmaking body to push through with the threat and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that the Philippines cannot be threatened even as the country continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic.
“Let’s not quarrel, it would be better to discuss the best moves since we have an ambassador there, and if this is really misinformation then the government should explain,” Roque said.
Workers group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines is calling on the Philippine government to address the issues.
“We urge the government to take the right action and take more steps in addressing the issues raised by the resolution. We have workers and their families behind every product being sold in the EU market, if the Philippine government fails to make the right response to the resolution we will lose the market which could result to more unemployment and loss of business opportunities, “ Gerard R. Seno, ALU National Executive vice president, said.
Losing grip to zero tariff
The labor group vice president maintained that the Philippines has been enjoying since 25 December 2014 a zero tariff on 6,274 products to the EU market to help the country develop, provided it improves its compliance to human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance standards.
Seno revealed some of these products which enjoy no tariff include pineapples, mangoes, tuna, vegetables, nuts, coffee, cacao and garments, footwear, pearls, precious metals and select furnitures.
The group noted that based on the Department of Trade and Industry records, in 2014, the then granting of GSP+ tariff-free export increase Philippine exports to the EU by 35 percent and created 200,000 more jobs.
“If the revocation of the GSP+ privilege is completed, we will lose these jobs,” the group stated.
PhilHealth funds protected, safe: Palace
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque assured the public on Saturday that the contribution of members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will still be protected in the event that the state health insurer would be reorganized.
In a radio interview, the Palace spokesperson noted that if the state health insurer will be privatized or abolished due to corruption, the government will ensure that the members’ contributions will not be “whisked away.”
Roque also clarified that in the event that PhilHealth will be reorganized, there would be a transitory provision in the law.
He also noted that the health insurer was created by a law, thus it should also be ended through a law.
Roque believes there are still good and honest people in PhilHealth, which is why the alleged irregularities have been exposed, and that the agency could still be saved.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte has directed newly-minted PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran to rid the agency of corruption by the end of the year.
“The deadline given to Attorney Gierran is a deadline to clean up the organization. File all the cases that need to be filed, suspend, terminate, whatever you need to do in order to cleanse the ranks of PhilHealth,” Roque said.
Gierran, meantime, vowed to address corruption at PhilHealth within two years.
This comes after Duterte approved the recommendation of an inter-agency task force to file charges against resigned PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales and other executives over anomalies in the state insurer.
Task Force PhilHealth has flagged anomalies in the approval and implementation of PhilHealth’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, the procurement of ICT equipment, and policies in holding erring employees and healthcare institutions accountable.
More people may face prosecution as the investigations continue, the Department of Justice had said.
Duterte has expressed openness to the idea of privatizing or abolishing PhilHealth following allegations of corruption in the state health insurer.
However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III told the President in a meeting with congressional leaders last Wednesday that “it might be better to wait a few months and see how the new administration performs.”
Sotto also said the President agreed to his proposal to have the Secretary of the Department of Finance to head the PhilHealth Board instead of the Secretary of the Department of Health.
Vilma, Piolo, Glaiza join human rights forum
“Regardless of one’s political persuasion, there’s no reason not to enjoy a well-told story,” broadcaster, author and musician Lourd de Veyra told Daily Tribune, referring to two events organized to promote discussions on human rights in the country.
The first event, which opened on 19 September and runs till 27 September, is the annual Active Vista International Human Rights Festival, which celebrates rights, freedoms and dignity. It is a project of the artist collective Dakila through its human rights education center Active Vista.
Now on its eighth edition, this year’s Active Vista festival will be held online with the theme “Walang Pipikit 360” (No One Blinks an Eye).
The public is invited “to look into human rights in these historic times with new lenses and perspectives, to go beyond the frames, the last pages of the news, the ends of the films, the 280-character tweets, the meeting rooms and daily stories.”
The festival consists of film screenings of shorts and main features led by Lauren Greenfield’s “The Kingmaker,” James Jones and Olivier Sabil’s “On the President’s Orders,” Alexander A. Mora’s “The Nightcrawlers,” Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck’s “The Cleaners” and Lav Diaz’s “Ang Panahon ng Halimaw.”
There are also forums that will “present a new angle in the discourse of the human rights issues in the country today.”
De Veyra, one of Dakila’s co-founders, is impressed by the film lineup. “A lot of these titles, while heavy in political statements, are well-crafted films and documentaries, primary examples of the fine fusion of form and content, style and message,” he said.
Asked how the festival can interest partisan groups that have negative opinions on human rights, De Veyra said, “Ultimately they should understand that human rights has nothing to do with political cheerleading, as if responsible citizenship were like rooting for just two stupid basketball teams.”
Meanwhile, happening today, 20 September, 2 to 5 p.m. on Facebook Live is “Ganito Kami Noon, Ganito Pa Rin Ba Ngayon?” — a discussion of films amid a climate of human rights suppression featuring actor and now Lipa Rep. Vilma Santos, actors Piolo Pascual and Glaiza de Castro, film-TV director Joel Lamangan and writers Ricky Lee and Lualhati Bautisa as guest speakers.
The guest speakers will recount their experience in the creation and portrayal of film characters who struggled and fought against oppression.
Likewise featured are performances by Aktor members.
Hosting the program are De Veyra and Xiao Chua.
The discussion will be streamed live on the following Facebook pages: AktorPH, DAKILA, and Regional Filmmakers Network.
Actor Agot Isidro told Daily Tribune that “Ganito Kami…” is a collaboration between Dakila and Aktor, an organization of artists in the entertainment industry.
Aktor, said Isidro, “was literally borne out of the pandemic. Our group felt that we were not fully represented in discussions and decisions in protocols in the entertainment industry. We want to fill up the gaps concerning actors as an active part of the industry.”
Gaps in academic curriculum
De Veyra pointed out that Dakila’s secretary-general, Leni Velasco, “believes that the current context presents an opportunity for interventions in addressing gaps in the academic curriculum content of schools for human rights and civic participation.
“It also reminds us of the importance of alternative forms like film screenings and creative content such as online art exhibitions, performances, etc, and also the power of narratives in influencing the formation of human rights and democratic values among audiences, and the importance of infusing art and entertainment in strategies to transcend echo chambers.”
Asked how Aktor invited its guests, Isidro said: “We reached out to Piolo and Glaiza, who are Aktor members. We sent them a formal letter. They checked their schedules and cleared them for the event. Same with Ate Vi, through the kindness of Meryl Soriano. Ate Via asked a few questions and accommodated us.”
De Veyra said that this year’s Active Vista program “fills me with relief. I am reminded that, oftentimes, the best artistic minds will most often stand with the good, with truth and human dignity.”
Asked whether Filipinos are now more aware of human rights abuses, especially during the martial law years, Isidro said: “In my personal opinion, it is still not enough. We really need to bring the human rights issue on the surface and not sweep it under the rug. Everybody should be made aware of it, as we can be prone to abuses if we lack the understanding for it. I always say we should go back to educating, over and over again, lest we forget. We have to first acknowledge that it did happen, learn from it, in the hopes of not letting it happen again.”
In the Active Vista schedule, short films are free, some full-length films will be streamed on Facebook also for free, but audiences can watch all titles in the duration of the festival via the VOD festival platform watch.activevista.ph.
De Veyra added that Active Vista also offers discounted tickets: “Value deal, tipid pack (parang kape lang), sulit pack (parang gatas lang), and tambay pack to those without credit cards. Free tickets will also be distributed to 100 randomly selected attendees of the forums.”
To know more about the festival, where to buy tickets, and other inquiries, visit activevista.ph, email [email protected], check out its Facebook page at facebook.com/activevista, or contact (+63) 995-1033706.
Third time’s a charm for UST’s Dean Divina
A triumph amid these difficult times recently came for one of the most recognized legal minds in the Philippines.
Atty. Nilo Divina, managing partner at DivinaLaw, first made it to the A-list of the Top 100 lawyers practicing in the country in 2018.
The legal eagle who also keeps a column in Daily Tribune stayed in the elite roster in 2019, with the firm he founded also reaping awards as Top Law Firm from the Asia Business Law Journal for Banking & Finance, Corporate & Commercial, Labor & Employment, Private Equity & Venture Capital and Restructuring & insolvency.
This year, Divina received the same distinction along with three senior partners of the firm.
“It is a great honor to be included once again in the list of the top 100 lawyers in the country. I thank Asia Business Law for this distinction and, of course, our clients whose loyal patronage and stirring endorsements, form the backbone of the award,” Atty. Divina tells the Daily Tribune.
Divina is the dean of the University of Santo Tomas’ Faculty of Civil Law and is an active member of the Philippine Association of Law Schools. In 2017, he was also hailed as one of the Filipino lawyers that made it to the world’s Top 500.
“He has been helping in reforming the quality and standard of the law schools, and he is a dynamic commercial lawyer,” Robert Brana, CEO at local property company RDB Realty, is quoted in an article on Asia Business Law Journal.
In 2018, the first time he was honored one of the Top 100 Philippine lawyers, Divina in a feature article in this paper took pride in the fact that five out of the top 20 bar topnotchers that year came from UST, and noted the school’s impressive 89.9 percent bar passing rate.
The Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List “based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel based in the country and elsewhere, as well as Philippine-focused partners at international law firms based outside the jurisdiction,” it states.
“To understand the clients’ perspectives about what it takes to become an outstanding lawyer in the Philippines, we sought answers from a large number of professionals, mainly experienced in-house counsel and corporate legal managers. From these recommendations it is possible to derive a portrait of the outstanding Filipino lawyers that make up this elite group,” the Asia Business Law Journal further says.
The same report cites Huawei Technologies’ Philippine-based head of legal, Camille Aromas, who says, “Nilo is a top-notch Philippine lawyer who never fails to solve our problems. We highly recommend him.”
Meanwhile, senior partner Alden Francis Gonzales was praised by Levi de Mesa, president of land-based recruitment and ship manning company International Skill Development, for being “very approachable, kind, attentive to our needs and very knowledgeable in the areas of our concern,” he says in the Vantage Asia report.
Proof of DivinaLaw’s commitment to excellence is the addition of two other senior partners to the Top 100 lawyers list.
Estrella Elamparo, senior partner, is described as “a star litigator” by Aromas. “Her out-of-the-box thinking and creative approach are exactly what in-house counsel need to win in this business environment.”
Also joining the top tier of lawyers is Enrique de la Cruz Jr., data protection officer and head of Fintech, Intellectual Property & Arbitration Group at DivinaLaw.
The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal along with feedback from “thousands of in-house counsel in the country and around the world — as well as partners at international law firms” asked to identify “which lawyers should make the cut.”
According to the article by Putro Harnowo, “Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Filipino and global companies, financial institutions and law firms.”
Keeping up with the Remullas
They are two of the brightest men in the daunting arena of Philippine politics. Seasoned by experience and perhaps primed to do their jobs by their prominent heritage, both blood brothers are now facing their most challenging task in public service because of the coronavirus crisis.
And while they have a lot of shared experiences gained growing up in their ancestral home in Imus and in serving their fellow Caviteños, the siblings are also unique in the leadership paths they have taken as public servants.
The older brother, Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, is Cavite’s 7th District Representative and Senior Deputy Majority Leader. He was Cavite Governor from 2016 to 2019, and Cavite 4th District Representative from 2004 to 2010.
In 1998, then President Joseph Estrada appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Management Staff.
“I stood by him until his last minutes of office in Malacañang. I wrote his letter as a lawyer, yung kanyang leave of absence from the presidency which is found in Article 11 Section 7 of the Constitution,” said Rep. Remulla.
“Mahirap yung ganun na iniwan ka, noong kasagsagan ng iyong power maraming nakapaligid pero nung nawala na yung power mo, nawala na din sila. (It’s difficult when you’re abandoned, unlike when you were in power, you were surrounded by many people, but when you were out of power, they’re gone as well.) I thought of it as an important gesture not to leave the man who gave me the best job I ever had.”
The younger brother, tall (at 6’1”) and good-looking Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla Jr. is Governor of Cavite, a post he also held from 2010 to 2016. He also served as the province’s Vice Governor and was a member of Cavite’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
They’ve had their differences, not a few made public by way of open letters, but as Daily Tribune’s Pairfect interview has shown, the proverbial “blood is thicker than water” holds true especially when it comes to taking to her art the lessons their father Juanito Reyes Remulla — Cavite’s longest-serving governor — taught them about life, service and politics.
The brothers Remulla gamely let down their guard to answer some questions on Pairfect that members of the press don’t really get to ask during their more formal media conferences.
The brothers Remulla gamely let down their guard to answer some questions on Pairfect that the media don’t really get to ask.
Daily Tribune (DT): How have you been doing since the pandemic was declared, what new normal lifestyles have you incorporated and how did you fit these into your demanding workloads?
Gov. Jonvic Remulla (JR): Well I wake up very early. I wake up at 3 a.m. My first post on Facebook is 4 a.m. Then I’m in the gym by 4:35, out by 7, in the office by 9. I still go to work but I’m limiting my business there due to the pandemic. Everything is all about COVID-19 now.
DT: Wow, what discipline, Governor. 4 a.m.
Rep. Boying Remulla (BR): It runs in the family. I also wake up very early — before 4 a.m. I read first and do walking, about five kilometers every morning.
DT: Do you still go to Congress?
BR: Yes, we make sure that things are running well and somebody has to decide when there are no other leaders there. I have been going to work since the pandemic. Nothing much has changed. It’s really not being able to go to restaurants and public places.
DT: Perhaps more stringent health protocols?
JR: Yeah, politics is a contact sport and I miss going out with people. Usually, my visitors at home in the morning range from 50 to 100 people. Usually, in the office, it’s between 300 to 350 but all that has stopped. I also used to make my rounds, but that stopped, too. That’s what I miss the most, I miss interacting more.
Everything is via these kinds of meetings — via Zoom or Facetime. That’s what I miss the most, I miss the people.
DT: But isn’t the action in Congress ongoing, except that social distancing is being practiced?
BR: It’s budget season so we are at work Monday to Friday. Every day, we work from morning to evening. We do not stop. With the pandemic, things have slowed down but we need to go to work because there are issues that we have to settle and there is constant pressure for us to continue working. So, we have to take up all the things — we have hearings here — tuloy-tuloy (ongoing). Even after budget hearings, we have hearings about telco companies, about water, electricity, the needs of our people so they can live better lives.
DT: What have you been working on for Cavite? How has the pandemic affected the work you have been doing?
JR: We have initiated the free Wi-Fi project for the entire province. We’re about to roll it out on the first week of October and we expect that within a month, 95 percent of students in public schools in Cavite will be able to avail themselves of Wi-Fi.
But the service is limited. The free Wi-Fi is accessed through one’s student number and there are only a few programs one can use because it’s open. Bandwidth weakens because of multiple use. So, we concentrated on the students.
BR: Right now, we have the pandemic so all the budget has been switched to helping people. We didn’t expect as much as before, but in terms of legislation, we continue doing what we are doing. So, people just have to bear with the new normal. But the funds right now are focused on social services.
Infrastructure-wise, we cannot do the things we used to do, but in terms of public service, it’s ongoing and we are able to concentrate on the basic utility issues like electricity, telephone, Internet, and hopefully, this can continue so the people will be assured that government is there for everybody. That’s what we want to do, after all.
DT: Your father, Juanito Remulla, served Cavite for many years, from 1980 till 1995, as governor. Can you tell us what was it like growing up with your father in government, helping the public and serving the people of Cavite? Do you think those years prepared you for politics?
JR: I was very young, 11 years old, when he became a governor. Growing up, he was always in Cavite. He will be home late and go to work very early. He let our mother take care of us. Boying was the father figure of the family because he was much older. He was 16 when our father became a Governor. So, madalas siya ang sumusubaybay sa amin. (Often, he looked after us). But he married early so we had to learn to fend for ourselves.
BR: Oo, maaga (Yes, early). Actually, I had a very busy life during my school days. I was engaged in many activities — theater, sports, whatever was available.
I joined… because when we went home, there was nothing to do. And besides, we were a big family (seven siblings), so home was crowded. Mas maganda sa labas. (It was better to be out of the house).
DT: Did you ever think you will be in government young as you were during that time?
BR: Yes, I really thought I would be in government. But I wanted to be a lawyer first and foremost. It happened in 1988 when I got the results of the bar exam (he placed 17th in the 1987 Philippine Bar Examinations with a grade of 85.05).
JR: I never thought I would be here kasi lahat ng mga kapatid ko matatalino, ako yung pinaka bobo sa ’min, eh. Yung grades ko pinakamababa lagi, tamad ako. (All my siblings were smart, I was the slow one. My grades were the lowest among them, I was lazy). Parang ako yung last person who you will figure would go into government service. But as I grew up, as I matured, I had an inkling for it. In-encourage ako ng father ko. So, at 27, I got into public service as a Provincial Board Member. But amongst the family — seven kids, I was the least likely to enter politics.
DT: You were associated with sports. Are you really into that?
JR: No, not at all. I was clumsy plus I was uncoordinated — I was not gifted with anything.
DT: What are your memories of your father? The lessons he would often advice you?
JR: I remember he started public service at a young age. He told me, “Maraming bagay sa ginagawa natin na kailangang gawin na hindi kailangang ipagmayabang. (There are a lot of things that we do that you don’t need to brag about). It struck me. It’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s not about anything else. It’s always about the people. That’s what he always said.
“Be careful when you make decisions. Marami diyan, hindi mo kailangang sabihin kung paano o ano desisyon mo pero kailangang magawa yung desisyon. (Many of these decisions, you don’t need to explain or what your decision is, but the decision has to be made). Those things struck me.
DT: How about between you as brothers, especially since you entered politics? Even Gilbert was also a congressman at some point. Do you talk about your work, do you give each other advice? What kinds of conversations do you have?
BR: We share insights about work. About the things behind what’s happening. We share insights that are important and juicy. Of course, kami mismo, nag-chichismisan kami, tapos kung anong nangyayari sa amin. (We ourselves gossip, and how thing are in the family). We share stories with our brothers and sisters.
JR: Kasi Boying has always been the technocrat, eh. He’s the intellectual in the family. I have always been a politician.
DT: We wonder what kind of conversations you have at home.
JR: From the sublime to the ridiculous.
DT: When you have those family dinners, what’s on the table? What do you enjoy eating while having those sublime to the ridiculous topics?
BR: Wala kaming staple eh. Very simple lang na pagkain (We don’t have staple fare. Our food is always very simple).
DT: But you do Sunday family dinner traditions?
BR: Wala kaming ganoon (We don’t have those). Only occasional — birthdays, Christmases — yan meron kaming kainan nang kaunti (For special occasions, we do have some celebrations).
DT: How are you as family men? As fathers and husbands, how would you describe yourself?
BR: I got married when I was 21… I am a homebody… That’s why, the pandemic
— there’s nothing new to me. If I have to work from home, it was nothing new. Of course, with my job now in Congress, I have to leave a lot. During the pandemic, I only stayed at home for 10 days.
JR: I have five children. One is in Sweden taking up her masters in Physics, one is in law school, one is in fine arts — all at the University of the Philippines. I have a 15-year-old in high school and a 12-year-old. I always make it a point that they are at home before 6 p.m. because 6 p.m. is our family dinner time. We end at 7 p.m. By 8 or 8:30 p.m., tulog na, tapos gising na ng (I am asleep, then up by) 3:30 a.m. But dinner is the family time.
DT: What kind of women is the “Remulla kind of women”?
BR: Steady and loving.
JR: Graceful and elegant.
DT: As siblings you have had your disagreements, and the latest one came with an open letter. So how do you resolve these disagreements?
JR: We both like writing. With matters of public importance, I guess it is important that people hear our views, the way we talk, the way we converse because people don’t keep up with things of national importance. They have to know how we think — how we communicate, how we express, and I think it’s important in public discourse that these matters are in public so that’s why we both choose Facebook to air these and I think it is fair that people know how we respond to issues.
BR: That’s the correct answer on how we resolve issues.
DT: What makes you different from each other? You’re fraternity brothers, blood brothers and you’re both in politics. Obviously, you’re very different but there’s also something similar at the core.
BR: I’m the serious one. Mas seryoso ako kaysa kay Jonvic in more ways. (I’m more serious than Jonvic). I’m as serious as a heart attack. Akala nila suplado ako. (People think I’m a snob). But that’s because I think a lot Jonvic is more lighthearted.
JR: Ako puro kalokohan nasa isip ko ever since I was a kid. I had lunch with my mom last Saturday and sabi niya, ‘Anak ‘di bale nang hindi ka katalinuhan, ‘di bali nang hindi ka kagalingan pero naging governor ka naman. (I was naughty as a kid… My mom told me, ‘Never mind if you’re not so bright, but you became governor).
DT: How do you keep yourself fit even when stuck at home?
JR: I’m very lucky because eight years ago nagtayo na ako ng sarili kong gym sa bahay. (I put up my own gym at home). I have no problems keeping fit kasi it’s part of my lifestyle for the last 35 years — playing basketball, working out lifting weights, I do all those because I have a home gym, it’s not a problem.
DT: It’s a big thing to keep fit because we need all the energy that we can get to able to work.
BR: I play golf once or twice a week. Wala naming masyadong sports ngayon kasi lockdown. (We don’t do much sports these days due to the lockdown). I think people underestimate the value of their life. Masarap talaga sa ilalim ng araw, kung may panahon ka, dapat gawin mo. (It’s really good to have some sun, if you have time, do it).
Senior citizens are prone to falls. But when they are driving in multilevel car parks, the car falls with them.
That’s how the Toyota Innova of Dr. Teodoro Paraiso Llamanzares, the father-in-law of Senator Grace Poe, ended up in the parking lot in front of Greenhills Shopping Center’s Promenade building in San Juan City in November 2018. The 83-year-old doctor was driving to the third floor of the multilevel carpark when the car fell injuring him.
Last 11 September, a 61-year-old man drove his car to the edge of the second floor of the Philippine Ports Authority parking building in Manila and fell on top of a parked SUV on the ground. The driver was injured. Fortunately, the SUV was unoccupied.
Perhaps, old drivers should be using self-driving cars to minimize accidents. Tesla cars can be set to autopilot, so the driver can just sit back and relax while the car proceeds to its destination. Setting it on autopilot also enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane.
However, self-driving cars are not crash-proof. Last month, Devainder Goli was on autopilot when he crashed into a police car on Highway 64, North Carolina.
The first Tesla driver to die from a crash, Apple software engineer and game developer Walter Huang, was on autopilot when he slammed into a safety barrier before two other cars hit his Tesla Model X in Silicon Valley, California in 2018.
But the cars were not faulty when they crashed. The drivers themselves were to blame for the accidents.
Goli was watching television while the car was on self-driving mode. Investigators found out Huang was playing a video game on his smartphone at the time of his fatal crash.
Lately, a Tesla crash was averted after police stopped it for overspeeding on a rural Canadian highway. Police Sergeant Darrin Turnbull said the electric car was running on autopilot at 140 kilometers per hour on a 110 kph highway near the town of Ponoka in Alberta province on Thursday.
The 20-year-old driver got more than a ticket for violating the speed limit. He was later charged with dangerous driving.
“Nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going,” Turnbull said, according to AFP.
Both front seats of the car were completely reclined as the driver was sleeping.
House gun duel over funds?
From almost coming to blows to the same pair of lawmakers agreeing to a gun duel, incidents of congressmen letting off their steam through Viber exchanges have exposed how low the House of Representatives becomes when its members fight over money.
It’s no paltry reason that more than P10 billion with Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) for projects in the congressional districts of Taguig and Camarines Sur are being questioned by several lawmakers. They would like to know why some are getting more while the rest have far less.
They’re for this year. But there’s more where these monies are coming from.
The exchanges are now being viewed as a preview of what now appears as a botched term-sharing deal between House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Cayetano’s district in Taguig as well as his wife Lani Cayetano’s (yes, they split Taguig City’s two districts using separate addresses and voting precincts) have also allegedly received P8-billion from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) budget for next year.
Another P11.8 billion in infrastructure funds will go to Camarines Sur.
The province is divided into two legislative districts.
District 2 is represented by Cayetano ally Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.
District 1 has Cayetano as its “caretaker congressman” following the death of Marissa Lourdes M. Andaya on 5 July this year due to cancer.
The amounts were first disclosed by Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. during House hearing on the DPWH 2021 budget on Thursday.
Teves is a member of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), President Rodrigo Duterte’s party when he sought the presidency in 2016, and whose members belong to the bloc supporting Velasco.
The Marinduque lawmaker is set to take his turn — for 21 months until 2022 — in the term-sharing deal concocted no less by Cayetano, who had agreed to serve 15 months as House Speaker which is supposed to end in October.
Cayetano, sources say, is reneging on this agreement.
This has sent many lawmakers up in arms. This issue about the inequitable distribution of funds makes the congressmen seethe even more.
Cayetano is also acknowledged as a key member of the Nacionalista Party (NP), to which Villafuerte belongs. The NP is led by the power couple Manny and Senator Cynthia Villar, parents of DPWH Secretary Mark Villar whose agency is responsible for the funds’ release to Cayetano and Villafuerte.
The P10 billion was the DPWH fund surrendered to the Office of the President supposedly for the COVID-19 fight. The OP had returned the money to the agency, but it has become a discretionary fund that was reportedly easier to manipulate.
The agency has control over this lump sum after that.
Teves’ claim percolated the House’s Viber group with many lawmakers now questioning the House leadership.
But several Tribune sources claimed it had started way back when one of their peers — a Cayetano ally — challenged a Velasco supporter (a senior member of the House) to a gun duel to settle their issues.
It was the second time for them to figure in near physical altercation after the same pair nearly came to blows last year during talks on appropriations.
Most congressional districts are receiving just P2-billion worth of projects, with some even less.
Total allocation for the Visayas bloc, meanwhile, is only eight percent of the 2021 budget.
ADB leads war vs COVID
The Asian region should take on the health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a collective which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will spearhead through the forming of a regional hub that will coordinate the anti-virus campaigns and the recovery efforts once the pandemic ends.
The Asian center will primarily promote knowledge sharing and strengthening cooperation on tax policy and administration to improve domestic resource mobilization.
ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said in an address in yesterday’s 53rd annual meeting of the Board of Governors that the center is one of its commitments to developing economies to meet their recovery goals.
“ADB will continue to earn your trust as a steadfast partner during the uncertain times we still face in our region as we build a strong and lasting recovery,” Asakawa said.
As the region moves forward toward recovery, Asakawa said ADB will build on its relationship with its members to provide support in key areas.
ADB will also support efforts of developing countries to secure safe and effective vaccines and to formulate strategies for their equitable delivery, according to Asakawa. “To accomplish this, ADB will continue to strengthen collaboration with the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, vaccine experts and pharmaceutical companies.
New global order
ADB said it will also promote regional cooperation and integration to help members seize the opportunity from renewed globalization in a post-pandemic new normal.
“While there are some who suggest that recent border closures and travel restrictions are signs that globalization has ground irreversibly to a halt, I do believe that globalization will return, but it will take a different shape,” Asakawa said.
ADB will work with developing nations to secure more diversified value and supply chains, and to promote regional public goods for better collective prevention of disease outbreaks, mitigation of climate change impacts and enhancement of regional financial safety net.
COVID-19, according to ADB, has contributed to an increase in income inequality and absolute poverty which can be addressed through investments in health, education and social protection.
ADB said a balance should be found in ensuring safety and opportunities for all while building the human capital that economies needed to thrive in the long term.
ADB will accelerate efforts to tackle climate change to reach the goals established in its long-term Strategy 2030, to reach $80 billion in cumulative climate investments and 75 percent of the total number of committed operations by 2030.
ADB will invest in information technology and data for health, education, financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises and remote work, while also addressing both the digital divide and cyber security.
ADB announced last April, a $20 billion package to help developing members confront challenges from the pandemic.
The assistance included rapid emergency grants and technical aid to help governments meet urgent medical needs; a new COVID-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO), which is supporting countercyclical expenditure programs and assistance for the private sector.
ADB has so far committed about $11.2 billion in aid to fight the pandemic. Working closely with development partners, ADB said it has also mobilized about $7.2 billion in cofinancing.
Even prior to the pandemic, many economies did not achieve a minimum tax yield of 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is a level now widely regarded as the minimum required for sustainable development.
In response, Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said by 2019, bold reforms in tax policy and administration raised the revenues to GDP ratio to 16.1 percent in 2019, which is the highest in more than two decades.
“In the same year, we brought down our debt-to-GDP ratio to a historic low of 39.6 percent,” he added.
This strong fiscal position gave us the headroom needed to reallocate budget items and quickly access emergency financing to fight the pandemic, Dominguez noted.