Sunday, July 24, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 25, 2016 issue
Business Mirror

From a little girl who peddled rice cakes in the streets, Erlinda Alli-Ganapin rose from her lowly beginning and survived many odds, some of them miraculously. How she beat them makes an interesting story.

Ganapin is a self-made woman, toughened by challenging experiences, molded by beautiful values, and time continues to make her a vintage wine. Once chosen as outstanding woman of the city of Puerto Princesa, you can liken her to many indigenous things Palawan is famous for, like lustrous sea pearls, brown and tough “Kamagong” tree, pungently sweet “Mampalang” (local mango) and many more.

The woman is proud of her teaching profession and always reminds people in her community that nothing is impossible when you dream about something and pursue it relentlessly. Listening to her as she dreamt of seeing Manila as a kid holds you spellbound. And you can tell, she is a woman of substance.

Born to be a storyteller 

When she was nine years old she could not contain her excitement the moment she stepped into MV General Luna, the big ship that sailed for three days and two nights to reach the city. To make the story short, it was a trip she would never forget for the rest of her life.

On their way back home, a series of unfortunate incidents greeted them as well as hundreds of passengers in the middle of the sea. An engine trouble had caused the ship to stall and passengers had to transfer to another ship. Packed like sardines on MV Fortuna, the rescue ship, Ganapin’s family slept on the floor and occasionally, on top of their luggage. Everything seemed fine until loud screams jolted them out of their sleep.

They heard a woman shout, “Huramentado, huramentado!” (Amok, everybody run!). Her mother then grabbed her hand and they sped upstairs. Halfway to safety, she remembered that her two other sisters were not with them. As they dashed back the dining area, passing through a narrow hallway, Ganapin saw a man approaching them with a bloodstained bolo. The man was going berserk.

And then the nightmare, the man swung his bolo hitting her mother’s scalp. At that instance, blood spurted out like a fountain from her head, terrifying her endlessly. Like a monster, the crazed man turned to her next. About to strike her, her mother had regained strength from half-consciousness and pushed him with brute force in the nick of time. All bloodied, she hurriedly put her inside a big box and covered it with a piece of luggage.

With one violent swing, the man had hit a luggage her mother had grabbed earlier to shield her. It had split into two, even causing a deep wound on her mother’s left hand. Without the luggage, her mother’s hand would have been cut off. Horrified, Ganapin cowered in fear. There was as if a mysterious hand that guided her mother to save her from near death. Then they heard loud gunshots. The man fell dead with many people wounded in his wicked wake.

Traumatized, Ganapin would later learn that her older sister almost jumped off the ship. The terrifying incident on that fateful night of June 1958 landed on national newspapers. Retelling the story to her teachers, classmates and friends would make her an effective storyteller later on.

To forget and put it behind them, her mother thought of a small business at home making rice cakes. She and her sisters knocked on people’s homes and sold them before going to school.
Ganapin sold the most because she had the loudest and charming voice. She even endeared herself to cabaret girls near the town’s popular Cosmos Bakery.

Born in a town where everybody knew everybody, Ganapin is grateful for all the learning experiences she faced during her growing up years. “I cherish the joy and laughter of my childhood. There were frustrations, pain and suffering, but as years went by, they’ve become part of a beautiful story worth sharing,” she intimates.

She remembers playing “patintero”, “luksong tinik”, “tumbang preso”, “tagu-taguan”, “piko”, “pitsao”, “maro” and “tatsing” under the sun and during full moons. She cherishes her boyish adventure of climbing fruit-bearing trees, gathering seashells, sea urchins and fiddler crabs at nearby “Parola”.

She remembers binging on ‘plywood’, a kind of hard baked bread, banana cue and “maruya”. “We drank water directly from the school’s artesian well if we didn’t have enough money to buy soft drinks. I was also bullied because of my dark brown skin and kinky hair,” she narrates.

With her father’s untimely death, Ganapin was compelled to become a working student. While tagging along with a friend who was auditioning for a broadcasting job, a man with a baritone voice yelled “Next!” referring to her. The man was the famous Jess Decolongon, a respected radio personality in the country. Ganapin reluctantly tried and to her surprise, she was taken in. The rest is history.

Ganapin learned the value of coming on time (as in this interview where she came in 30 minutes early), preparedness, continuous learning while on the job, objectivity in dealing with situations, presence of mind, reading and improving one’s craft and not to settle for anything less.

She sold mosquito nets, blankets, bed sheets and pillowcases sent by her brother to augment the family income and worked at the Office of the Auditing Examiner’s Office at Palawan National School, Provincial Assessor’s Office, Office of the Provincial School Superintendent while continuing part-time work at DYPR on weekends (with a salary of two pesos per hour).

She worked full-time during summer as disc jockey, hosted live shows, gave advice to people in love on air, was a newscaster, did field reporting, public service, and hosted musical programs.

Ganapin’s family instilled in her faith in God, honesty, respect for elders, concern for others, hardwork and perseverance. She helped her brother Artemio who took over her mother’s home business. Though half of his right leg was amputated because of a fatal accident, he strived hard. He now manages a family business in Antipolo market and lives in a big house with his family. Her older sister Aurora taught her multi-tasking and time management. “I should really be thankful for her efforts in making me learn how to survive in life,” she adds.

She read pocketbooks, newspapers, watched English movies, accepted English programs at DYPR (“Words and Music”), joined literary writing contests, wrote poems, short stories, scripts, memorized speeches, listened to good speakers to improve her English.

An active student leader, she won as a senator in college. She graduated at age 19 and became a full-pledged teacher. Her first teaching job was at a barrio high school in Quezon town southern Palawan. Here, she once walked a 7-kilometer muddy road from a sitio because the vehicle she took could not proceed further to the town proper.

“My first two-years of teaching was full of challenges and frustrations but that did not discourage me. I organized a fund-raising campaign for our school building. The local government funds were not sufficient to provide our needs in school. We had to wait for 5 months to claim salaries,” she relates.

Ganapin’s starting salary was Php 234.00 charged against local funds. “I initiated educational field trips to supplement theories taught in school. I recommended students for summer jobs in a mining company for them to earn extra income for their continuous schooling,” she adds.

She transferred to Palawan National School in 1971 as a full-time English teacher, resumed radio work during weekends and moved to the newly opened Palawan Teachers' College (predecessor of Palawan State University) in 1977. It was the start of a flourishing professional growth for her, paving the way towards her dreams.

She then pursued a master's degree in college teaching. A year after, she specialized as Trainor in English for the Decentralized Learning Resource Center, a school for school administrators of the Department of Education. Soon, she was designated Director of Information. 

Because of her media background, Ganapin was tasked to answer issues raised by faculty and students against school administration in local media and at Radio Veritas and Radyong Bayan in Manila. When Edsa Revolution was unfolding in 1986-1987, the then Palawan State College was also undergoing a student-faculty unrest.

Groups wanted the incumbent president to give way to a Palaweno educator. Unfolding events would make Ganapin principal of the Laboratory High School from 1987-1991, a tough task she handled after the transition of leadership.

In a state institution where designations are never permanent, Ganapin anchored a one-hour a week radio program aired to keep stakeholders informed about college activities. She was among those who prepared a position paper needed for a bill converting the state college into a state university.

Eventually finishing her doctorate degree in Education in 1998, she was designated Dean of College of Education the following year. She would hold the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs after three months, lasting for nine years.

In 2005, Ganapin became Executive Vice President of the university and served as member of the PSU Board of Regents as alumni representative (1999-2004). She worked on major curricular reforms and initiated additional extension centers in different municipalities of the province.

She was given a 5-day scholarship on Leadership and Management of Universities in the 21st Centuryat the United Nations University in Amman, Jordan in 2006 where she presented a paper on Solid Waste Management Program of Puerto Princesa City. When PSU was recognized as the first sustainable and eco-friendly university in the Philippines in 2009, she was appointed chair of the committee on environmental sanitation and beautification, organized by the DENR, CHED and DEPEd.

She presented the university’s best practices at the Ritsusmeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan on December 12, 2009 as a result. All of these milestones happened while attending to a sick daughter who battled leukemia for almost a year. 

She worked with the World Bank through PSU Knowledge for Development Center and led a university-wide anti-corruption drive, making the school recognized as member of Transparency International. This earned her a Governor's Award in Education in 2010 two weeks after her daughter’s death.

She was then appointed OIC-President of Palawan State University a year after, a position she worked hard to attain with very supportive constituents. She resigned after three months and applied for the presidency of PSU, an institution she served for more than three decades.

A few people worked against her and she eventually lost the battle, a well-orchestrated conspiracy done by people whom she says acted like God. “I thought it best to keep calm,” Ganapin says. More than a year after her retirement in service, Ganapin was invited as an external associate for PSU under the Atlas Scholarship Program in Gottenburg, Sweden in 2013. Together with a team of educators from University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo De Davao University and Angelicum College, she worked on a curriculum for selected elementary schools, integrating environmental sustainability. 

Ganapin believes in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), an advocacy she started in the late 80s when she co-authored Palawan’s first musical play "Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kailan?", with good friend Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek. 

In a city where women leaders are few, Ganapin was a reluctant city council candidate of the Liberal Party in the last elections supported by some business groups, partymates, family, friends, relatives, colleagues and former students, in her desire to help promote education for sustainable development and senior citizens concerns. 

At age 66, she is still an active Red Cross volunteer member of the Board of Directors) , a part-time volunteer teacher ( since 2013) at the Seminario De San Jose in Puerto Princesa City, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Palawan State University Multi-Purpose Cooperative (since 2015), manager of Palawan Prime  Movers Advocacy Cooperative and a part-time professor at the PSU Graduate School. She is looking forward to continue her services as an educator in her own simple ways.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 11, 2016 issue
Philippine Business Mirror
Full page

Passionate about emotional storytelling with cinematic visuals, two young German filmmakers, 
Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherzl created a story of two brothers journeying back to their younger days. In the Scottish highlands, the setting of the ad, the two seamlessly integrated Johnnie Walker and put a twist to its long time "Keep Walking" slogan at the end. 

The result was a viral history and their initiative work became talk-of-the-town. By the end of 2015, the haunting speculative television commercial caught the eyes of film watchers across the globe. And influential Advertising Age and Adweek gave them a toast.

Titz and Lebherzl are film students at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. They produced "Dear Brother", title of the ad, and are hoping to someday make it big in the ad industry. 

More than half of the Philippines’ 100 million Filipinos are young and creative. An equal number are also computer-savvy. Like Titz and Lebherzl, many are hoping to be given a break in tv commercial production.

The Philippines has time and again proven that it can excel and be on par with the best in the world. A real film school can develop their talent and make wonders. The only thing is, we have no school like what Titz and Lebherzl attended as far as technology is concerned. Our universities are not equipped for film and tv commercial production, even in its basic form. 

None also has the magnitude of Miami Advertising School, one of few schools in the world that puts the student at the intersection of education and real-world practice. Miami students learn from instructors who are practicing professionals from real advertising world, unlike some local schools with little or no knowledge of the industry and are there only because of politics or by accident. 

Founded in 1993, Miami allows students to develop ideas and advertising campaigns, videos, social media strategies, websites, apps, products and new business models – all from professionals of the industry. Through partnerships with dozens of advertising agencies and film production companies, students get an opportunity to intern and get real-world experience while they are still in school. 

“Imagine the good if only the best schools and teachers are available to these talented Filipinos. They can easily reach their dreams and help the production industry,” says Ross Misa, founder of prolific Abracadabra, a young film production company that has been turning out better-produced tv commercials recently.

Misa says Filipino talents have to train in local production houses after they graduate. They have to re-learn or even unlearn some theoretical lessons, specifically those from schools with no equipment to do the rigors of real film production.

Misa founded Abracadabra in 2006 out of sheer determination to start anew after twenty-two years of working as an executive producer in a high-profile production company. The name came when his business partner Mari Buencamino were playing music on his laptop. 

While they were at it, a Steve Miller Band song popped out. Dissecting the lyrics “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” and “We create as we speak”, they would be convinced that the word was fun and catchy. They then set up a one-room office space in Roadrunner, a production house owned by Dodie Lucas in Legaspi Village, Makati. The rest is history.

“Our growing up years were luckily, not as tough as those of other players in the industry. We were fortunate enough to have a pool of clients who supported us. This inspired us and we became even more aggressive in chasing for new directors to offer to our growing number of clients,” Misa recalls.

He immediately put Italian Director Franco Marinelli on board. Marinelli was a most sought after tv commercial director who also gave Abracadabra its first regional tv commercial production assignment. 

Abracadabra debuted with an Anchor Beer tv commercial shot in China, in collaboration with ad agency Leo Burnett Guangzhou. They then worked on Qatar Fertilizer, in partnership with Spinifex Australia, afterwhich they produced three more tv ads for Walmart USA, all directed by Marinelli.

Over the years, Abracadabra would win gold awards from the local industry’s Oscars: Ad Congress, Kidlat Awards and in regional and international award shows like Spike Asia, Cannes, and One Show. It even made a full-length movie entry for Sundance Film Festival.

As it was becoming a hot innovative shop, it also meant investing in new equipment and technology. Abracadabra subscribed to the latest Steadicam series to meet the needs of the local film and video industry. 

Recently, it rounded up progressive Philippine directors, camera operators and producers to attend a Steadicam Bronze Workshop, in partnership with Big Brother Manila and Tiffen Steadicam, a global leader in film equipment supplies to address cost-efficiency in the new digital age and other challenging issues affecting the industry. The company also allied with the country’s biggest supplier of state-of-the-art equipment, HD cameras and Final Cut Pro editing facilities.

"We evolve with the times and equip Abracadabra with up-to-the-minute equipment to be competitive in the digital landscape. From content concepts to storyboard production to pre-production to the finished material, we put our years of experience and expertise on each of them,” Misa proudly says.

The company will celebrate its 10th year on July 27th this year. It is just as upbeat as when it started even with a number of production houses have closed down and old-timers in the industry have retired. 

Misa has no traces of slowing down. On the contrary, he continues to give something back, sharing part of Abracadabra to talented Filipino filmmakers by providing them valuable training ground they never experienced early on.

The next 10 years 

The ever forward-looking Misa has taken note of the evolving episodes in the industry. His plans are ambitious. “We all have to become lean and mean but very smart in the way we approach production,” he says. He believes that it is in the giving that “we receive. It is always the law of seedtime and harvest,” he says.

“I simply want to sustain and continue our services. I want to see Abracadabra become one of the best, if not the best ever creative communications company in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region,” Misa says on being asked how he wants to see his baby in the next ten years.

Misa is not talking empty. He is tireless, forward looking and surrounded by supporters, people with diverse experience, creative and industry people who are experts in traditional and emerging new media. 

He has long been ready even before the digitalization game became a buzzword. He has mapped out plans to face the competition. “Our first and foremost rule: “Adapt to the changing times and master the art of sustainability,” he says matter-of-factly. 

Misa started in tv commercial production when he was accompanying his younger sister for a production assistant interview in a production house called Media Circuit in Quezon City. The frenetic scene, his own curiosity and excitement tempted him to also try. He, too, applied and got hired.

“My first teacher in the industry was no less than Lorna Lopez-Tabuena, the owner and two other pillars of the company, Yayan Concepcion and Ina Lagman. I was trained to do all types of legwork: answer the phone, make copies of storyboards, run errands (food for shoots and interlock meetings, prepare artwork and set materials) and do all kinds of administrative tasks my production managers asked me to do,” he remembers. 

His training also involved technical matters. He was lucky to be able to work with Nelly Vidanes (Mang Nelly to many), Media Circuit’s technical supervisor for tv network engineering. 

He eventually became a Production Manager and worked with some of the best Filipino and foreign directors like Jin Urbano, Naning Padilla, Tony Herrera, Tony Smith, Jeric Soriano, Trevor Hone, Butch Perez, Dante Datu, Vitt Romero, Manolo Abaya, Peque Gallaga, Lorie Reyes, Stasch Radwanski, Franco Marinelli and Neil McDonald.

He remembers with fondness the tv commercials he produced during the early part of his career: Smart tv commercial with Dolphy as talent and produced by one of his mentors in the industry Nanette Ramirez, “Riles”, an advocacy ad for TBWA-Santiago, Mangada and Puno, “Dancing Inmates”, a tribute to Michael Jackson that was co-produced with Sony Pictures USA and the first Jollibee tv ad produced with the late Abby Jimenez.

He, too knocked on doors of advertising agencies, collaborated with in-house agency producers and presented demo reels of Filipino directors and cinematographers, selling his company’s production expertise and experience. 

His biggest break came with “Wok With Yan”, a grueling series of tv commercials created for three ad agencies in one day, a project he considered a turning point in his career. 

“I had to shoot three concepts within 24 hours. 
Here, I learned attention to detail, a “get-it- done” attitude, which I inherited from my boss, coupled with a good relationship with production setmen, otherwise, you’ll never what will happen. Here, we were supposed to simulate the show’s template, follow directions correctly and must deliver based on pre-production meeting agreements. We hurdled the test!” he proudly remembers.

How was the industry back then compared to now? “Ad agencies then demanded quality. Everything had to pass through rigid process and schedules were more reasonable. Production budgets were much higher. There was more leeway for us to use big-named local and foreign directors. Graphics and post-production facilities were mostly done overseas: Tokyo Japan, Hongkong, Sydney Australia, Los Angeles, USA, and Bangkok,” he says.

He laments that social media has changed the scenario and real-time media has become prevalent. “There are now more affordable technology (cameras and post facilities) and user-friendly applications/softwares that enhance executions and they have become readily available. We see these not as a threat but as tools for real talented Filipino artists,” he says.

People in the industry come and go but Misa has crossed over changing landscapes. What makes it so? “I would like to think that it is because of my passion to do my craft well and my willingness to reinvent myself,” he says.

For Misa, life is a constant learning journey. All these years, he has learned the value of team effort, a mantra that has become his principle in life. “I’ve learned to delegate and enjoy the contribution of each player in my organization,” he professes. 

How did he endear himself to a very critical industry? “I love my job and enjoy every minute of it with undying passion. I give back by doing personalized service in many ways than one. In the days that my former company did not invest much in technology and equipment, I developed a strategy unique to me,” he says.

Looking forward

According to Misa, everybody has become a filmmaker with the rise of social media. One can create any form of communication and be seen on mobile phones and other media of the Internet. Competition in tv production industry has become stiffer. Viewership has changed. Users of tv, cable, and whatever satellite distribution, there is, have declined with the exception of news coverage, sports and live events.

People are now watching content on the mobile phones, laptops or ipads. Because of the openness of the system and the free platform that it gives, more and more competitors have become players in content creation – resulting in production budgets that have become thinner and thinner.

What would he advise students of mass communications and juniors in the profession to be successful in the industry? As in any other field of endeavor, Misa says, “one must just follow his heart. Practice makes perfect. Be ready for a more or less 24/7 scenario. Read as much as you can to get updated. Keep your mind open to new ideas. Learn the art of saying No. Think ten times ahead of your clients. Lastly, make things happen,” he advises like a true master.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 3, 2016 issue
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Full page

As of today, around 80 Liberal Party congressmen have reportedly joined the exodus to PDP-Laban, the party of President Rodrigo Duterte. Earlier on June 2, eleven from the same party took their oath under PDP Secretary-General Pantaleon Alvarez in a short ceremony in Makati.

In less than a month after the May 9 elections, PDP bragged that it was close to achieving its goal of creating one of the biggest alliances in Congress’ history by successfully recruiting other members from the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, National Unity Party, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the Party-List coalitions, including Gabriela to form what they call the ‘Super Majority Coalition’.

Politics in the Philippines swings like a pendulum and the ‘balimbing’ (turncoat) rides on the crest of a wave. Hide tide or low tide, would he or she be on your side? It depends where the wind blows.

Balimbings are in season. Their word-of mouth popularity can even make Macopas blush. Why, it is that time of the year when seats of power are up for grabs and everyone is jockeying for a position as the musical chair game begins.

Being referred to as one is tantamount to being addressed with disdain. Worse, the perfidious tag has stuck and most likely, cannot be undone, a term that has made the yellow-green Averrhoa Carambola (scientific name) the most reviled of all Filipino fruits, innocently synonymous to a person who is disloyal, traitor, “doble” or “muchas-caras” (double or multi-faced).

History is replete with ‘Balimbings’. We were made to believe that they began during the Spanish times and flourished when the Americans introduced their political way of life to the archipelago. No, not exactly.

Let’s antedate our thinking. There were biblical ‘Balimbings’ (Judas, Esau, King Saul), and up to the beginning of civilization, friends, Romans and countrymen lent their ears to Brutus and his ilk. And then the number grew, from the Dark Ages to the Middle Age and the Renaissance period.

Monarchs and Despots, Kings and Queens, Emperors and Tsars, Rulers and Tyrants fought wars because of treachery. Up to the modern era, from Wall Street to your tiny little corporate cubicle, a ‘Balimbing’ exists with a “we-live-in-a-disposable-society” mindset. Get hold of Arthur Redding’s “Turncoats, Traitors and Fellow Travelers” book and you are going to unearth more.

Every civilization or society has a turncoat. They come in different shapes, sizes and nom de guerre. When the last vote had been counted and all things had been said, they can only be summed up in either one of these two:

1. “Some people aren’t loyal to you. They are only loyal to their needs. Once their needs change, so does their loyalty.” 2. “My loyalty to my party ends when my loyalty to my country begins,” a line attributed to Manuel L. Quezon.

Famous Filipino ‘Balimbings’

Historian Ambeth Ocampo describes Pedro Paterno as the greatest turncoat in Philippine history. The “original” ‘Balimbing’, according to Ocampo, was “first on the Spanish side and then wormed his way to power to become President of Malolos Convention in 1899.”

Felipe Buencamino was a fine example of the Filipino “muchas caras” at the twilight of Spanish rule and dawn of American regime. When the Revolution broke out, he initially sided with the Spanish, reverted to the Filipino camp after being incarcerated by ‘revolucionarios’ in Cavite and ultimately sided with the Americans in the end.

General Antonio Luna once whacked him on the face for proposing to negotiate with the Americans during a heated debate. They would meet again in a violent confrontation on June 5, 1899, the day Luna was assassinated.

Had Teodoro Patiño shut his mouth and not thought of his own interests, Filipinos would have succeeded in their planned revolt against Spain. Squealing the existence of Katipunan because of a petty two-peso wage dispute, he led Spanish authorities in ransacking a printing shop. The operation yielded incriminating evidences against the Katipunan and doomed the fate of many revolutionaries.

Emilio Aguinaldo would not have been captured in the hinterlands of Isabela if not for Cecilio Segismundo. What made the latter reveal Aguinaldo’s hiding place? He was promised a commission in the Philippine Army and a $300 reward, allowing General Frederick Funston to bring him back to Manila.

From one party to another

Political “turncoatism” or politics without principles has been an integral part of our society. When self-interest mattered and egos are bruised, it is easy to set-up a faction or an entirely new party.

In 1922, a young Manuel Quezon organized the country’s “third” political party - Partido Nacionalista Collectivista with all members coming from the Nacionalista Party. They had accused NP president Sergio Osmena of being an autocrat.

Ramon Magsaysay was secretary of national defense when he bolted out of Elpidio Quirino’s camp and joined NP. He ran against the latter and won by a landslide.

When Ferdinand Marcos was Senate President, the late President Diosdado Macapagal promised to fully support him in 1965 presidential election. Macapagal reneged on his promise and decided to run for re-election prompting Marcos to switch to the NP camp. Marcos ran against Macapagal and won.

Political turncoats had a heyday when Marcos formed KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslims Democrats) was a political party founded by Fidel Ramos in 1992. He ran because he had lost the LP presidential nomination early on.

Months before the 1992 elections, the House was controlled by members of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino allied with then Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. After Ramos won, virtually all LDP members jumped ship to Lakas.

In her Philippine Daily Inquirer column, former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod, said “the sight of the Liberal Party, or most of its members immediately deserting what they thought was a sinking ship, should be denounced. The Liberals, thinking only of themselves (chairmanships bring a lot of perks, including monetary) and not of their constituents (after all, they were elected as Liberals), just abandoned ship,” she said.

What drives politicians to become turncoats?

Many perspectives and different opinions resulted in my interviews with some political watchers from the community. Political Analyst and UP Professor Clarita Carlos, for example says the political party system in the Philippines is broken.

“Political parties are supposed to aggregate interests, articulate issues and prepare a program of government based on a platform of basic principles. They are avenues for socialization of its young members as they hone their skills in governance,” she says.
She cites that UK's former Tony Blair of Labor and David Cameron of Conservative Party did not just come out from a bamboo, and voila, became Prime Minister. She says that “you cannot have somebody from outside, suddenly catapulted to national candidacy, as had happened here, without going through the gauntlet in his/her political party. That position is earned, not freely given.”

According to Carlos, political parties make decisions on the party line to support, who is running in what constituency, support for campaign radio/tv time, etc, and is required to toe the party line in any and all votes in the legislature. Crossing the “aisle" or changing political parties, she says is virtual political suicide.

She woes that it is not so in the Philippines, where so called political parties do not have distinguishing characteristics and platform. Why is turncoatism so rampant? Because it pays to change color, and yes, one even gets better political largesse when he/she switches political groups,” according to her. 

Where politicians are often driven by self-interest rather than ideology, switching allegiances is endemic in the country because the constitution is extremely lax on the ability of candidates to switch parties at a snap of a finger, Political Analyst and De La Salle University Assistant Professor Richard Javad Heydarian says.

Former Senior Research Assistant at UP College of Public Administration Romy Garcia says turncoatism is an inescapable reality in the Philippines. According to him, survival is primordial to these would-be-demagogues. It is ducking the winds of change and living another day to fight, a Middle Age mentality of the vassal system, a kind of pledging an allegiance to the new guy on the block. “Sabi nga ng Pinoy,” just go with the weather, insidious but very effective in insuring self-perpetuation,” he adds.

There are no mass defections in most modern democracies, like the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand when a political party loses in the polls, Miriam College instructor Kris Ablan says. “Members stay with their party and understand why they lost. Whatever the cause may be, members of the losing party take responsibility for their actions and accept the peoples’ mandate. Losing and sticking it out with each other is how political parties learn. That's how they become stronger. It sets a good example for the people,” according to him.

Adie Pena who is Institutional Communications Director at College of St. Benilde says the Starfruit Syndrome is not limited to politicians. It happens everywhere. “In the entertainment industry, actors and actresses move from one TV network to another. Creative and accounts people leave their ad agencies to handle a competitive brand in another shop. Even maids and drivers will say goodbye (at a moment's notice!) to move to another household. And it usually all boils down to a better deal. Welcome to Balimbing country!,” he says.

Political Turncoatism is an accepted practice among elected politicians in the Philippines,
Educator-Servant and Professional Urban Planner Gabby Lopez, says. “For very obvious reasons - survival politically and continuing access to valuable resources of the sitting President,” he says. While most declare their principles, one cannot but suspect self-interests as the basic motivation, according to Lopez of Filipino turncoats. He says, adherence to party principles is conveniently shed off when survival  and  demands of personal interests behoove.

“One reads many lamentations these days of former strong leaders who have been abandoned by their “close” followers who have switched to the winning leaders. I have no appreciation of their righteous protestations. They wrought it upon themselves by perpetuating a toxic culture of political dispensation,” he says.

Loyalty to the party seems to be a thing of the past if you ask Pinay Medy Beroy, an independent medical and legal contractor based in Georgia, USA. “Changing political affiliations is now as easy as changing a spouse or a partner. Some candidates would sometimes opt to run as independent, giving them a lot of freedom to campaign for themselves to ensure victory,” she says. She also adds that even one’s own party mate could junk a candidate if he/she hinders his/her chances of winning.

“Now that the post-election balimbing-bashing phase is on it last legs, I’d like to make some space in my psyche for the question: “What’s wrong with changing sides?” Butch Tan, a retired advertising man asks. “All the “que horrors,” the demand for integrity and delicadeza, self-righteous breast-beating, they simply mean that summary judgment is alive and well, the great national pastime,” he observes.

Apart from switching sides, there is no other “truth”, according to Citizen B. Changing sides does not necessarily make one a bad person or at par with murderers, swindlers and sundry scalawags. And yet the public reaction to balimbings ranges from resentment to abhorrence,” he laments.

He argues that, in the first place, political parties in this country, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) excepted, hews to a clear, well-defined ideology. They’re more like clubs and lodges whose purpose is built around protecting its members’ interests and benefiting from being in power.

He then puts in the punchline: “That last sentence is the key. Once a party is no longer in power, it ceases to be a source of power and protection, money. It’s called realpolitik. Being outside the kulambo means being in fiscal and political limbo, and being in limbo affects the good and the bad equally. It’s just the way things are, he says.

Good politicians, according to him, switch sides to make sure their constituents can get their fair share of the national budget. “Not doing so would actually be a disservice. So what about venal politicians who switch sides for self-serving reasons? I address the answer to the ones who vote them into office: Merese!”

Loyalty to country above self

In a news report, Senator Miriam Santiago said: “Most political parties in the Philippines are not composed of citizens advocating an ideology, platform, principles or policies. Traditional politicians who were not nominated by their original party to the position they desire easily changed political parties.”

The prohibition on turncoatism was removed in the 1986 Constitution during the time of the late former President Cory Aquino.

On the other hand, Cass Sunstein, in his Bloomberg “Societies Need Turncoats” article, gives us a mind-changing definition of the turncoat. He said: “Turncoats may be freedom fighters. In democracies suffering from a high degree of polarization, turncoats are indispensable,” he says.
“Turncoats are often independent thinkers and they promote independent thinking in other people. Turncoating can be an act of exceptional bravery. We shouldn’t celebrate those who abandon good causes for bad ones. To separate heroism from villainy, we need to specify the coat and the turn,” he said.

Anyone would like to dispute that?