Planet Philippines

Feb 132015

BY LEANDRO MILAN – Manny Pacquiao, full-time professional boxer and part-time everything else (entertainer, Bible preacher, politician and basketball coach) has a number of rivals – among them Floyd Mayweather Jr. – for the distinct title “Best Pound-for-Pound Boxer.” Until the proposed mega fight with the unbeaten American boxer materializes, the Filipino boxing idol will have to settle for just being one of the best inside the ring.

But Manny doesn’t have to fret for he has just been bestowed a new title all his own, albeit it’s for something he did – or more accurately, he did not do – outside the ring. Our sporting hero, who goes by the official government designation of Honorable Emmanuel Pacquiao, Congressman of Sarangani Province, has just been crowned “Top Absentee Member of the House of Representatives in 2014.”

According to House records, the Gentleman from Sarangani showed up for work at the Lower House only four days last year. Coming in poor second is Negros Occidental Congressman Jules Ledesma (better known as the husband of actress Assunta de Rossi) who was marked “present” seven times in 2014. Unlike in regular work or school, the absentee solons did not get any pay cut or even a reprimand. There is no law or House rule that compels members to attend sessions and committee hearings, so Congress leadership is helpless in enforcing attendance.

A boring day in Congress

A boring day in Congress

Last December former Senator Rene Saguisag, scandalized by the congressman’s wanton disregard for House rules and proper conduct, suggested that the chamber “should consider suspending Pacquiao up to the end of his term as he treats House work as a hobby or sideline.” Saguisag, who has a reputation for being a stickler for ethical conduct, said being a congressman or senator means serious work and should not be taken lightly. He added that if Pacquiao is serious about running for the Senate in 2016 and even the presidency, then he should retire immediately and do his homework.

Tell that to the Marines, scoffs my neighborhood barber. Our politicians, he says, do not take kindly to the counsel of ordinary mortals. He cites the arrogant retort of Senator Gregorio Honasan to singer Jim Paredes, who was critical of the ex-soldier: “Mag senador ka muna!”

Congressman Manny downplays his habitual absenteeism from the House. He maintains that members of Congress do not have to attend sessions and committee hearings on a regular basis in order to discharge their duties as lawmakers. To critics and doubters, Congressman Manny presents himself as Exhibit A.

“I don’t want to boast what I have done in my district, pero kung pakitaan ng accomplishment by the term sa distrito . . . Importante kasi ‘yung tao matulungan mo, at hindi ‘yung lagi kang naka-upo doon sa Kongreso,” he told reporters last Jan. 19, the day Congress resumed session after the Christmas break, an opportune to bring up the issue of his poor attendance in the House.

He went on to share some nuggets of wisdom on good governance: “Puro batas ‘yung pina-file mo, wala namang pinakinabangan ang batas. Pero kailangan, you file the bill, ‘yung trabaho kailangan tulungan mo ang mga tao. Tapos ang term mo, tapos wala kang ginagawa sa mga tao.”

The starstruck reporters were either too timid or too courteous to remind their boxing idol that membership in Congress requires attendance in sessions and committee hearings because it is a deliberative body where national issues are discussed and policies formulated. Or maybe the reporters thought it was not the right venue to grill the congressman about lawmaking and ethics in public service. At that time they were in New York City where the congressman was promoting Manny, a documentary about him by Fil-American filmmaker Ryan Moore.

Manny and wife Jinky with Prince Harry in London

Manny and wife Jinky with Prince Harry in London

Given Congressman Manny’s education and the company he keeps, one should be more understanding of his distorted notion of our government structure and the functions and duties of officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. His advisers and handlers cannot be expected to instantly mold him from showman to statesman; it’s like teaching old dogs new tricks.

And lest we forget, Congressman Manny remains, first and foremost, a prizefighter. It was his brawn, not his brains, that rewarded him fame and fortune. His other preoccupation – including being congressman – is just icing on the cake. He does not need the position or title, thank you; it’s even a financial burden if you ask him.

That explains why he is unperturbed and unrepentant about his poor attendance in Congress.

Hindi naman ako mahihiya diyan. Yes, marami akong absent because marami akong commitments at sa fights. Two fights a year, at sa training pa lang.”

Pacquiao had two fights in 2014 – against Timothy Bradley on April 12 and Chris Algieri on Nov. 22. Each of those fights required at least three months of training here and abroad.

As for his other commitments outside boxing, there’s enough distraction in his calendar to keep him away from Congress the whole year. Consider his itinerary last January: From New York, he flew to Hollywood on Jan. 22 to attend the premiere of Manny. On Jan. 22 he and wife Jinkee had dinner with Prince Harry in London. On Jan. 25 he sat as one of the five judges in the Miss Universe pageant in Florida. In between sips of champagne and poses for the paparazzi, he had numerous meetings with boxing promoter Bob Arum for updates on the proposed mega fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

He is a much-sought-after celebrity and endorser at home and abroad, enabling him to boost his image and pocketbook. The world is his stage. He did not seek the congressional post in some tiny backward province in Mindanao; it was the position that sought him. Besides, he says, he has been spending his own money to help his constituents.

Sa akin, sa distrito ko, ‘pag election, ‘pag may kalaban ako, huwag niyo na akong iboto para hindi sumakit ang ulo ko . . . ‘Yun, mas happy ako kung hindi nila ako iboboto, ‘yung para hindi ako gagastos. Wala naman akong hinahangad na magnakaw. Hindi ako katulad na magnanakaw. May takot ako sa Panginoon.”

If Congressman Manny sounded proud and confident about his record and accomplishment in the House despite being present only four days the whole of last year, is it because he knows fully well the workings in the chamber and how his colleagues are misbehaving badly in and out of the session hall?

To his critics, he has this to say: Better absent than corrupt!


Dec 232014

By Tim Dahlberg — LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. built a career – and made a fortune – by using deception to confuse and outwit his opponents. Playing the same game outside the ring has also paid off for Money May. Mayweather has, for the most part, been able to fight who he wants, where he wants and when he wants. He sells enough pay-per-views that he has been able to avoid a fight with Manny Pacquiao that should have taken place five years ago. But the game has gotten old, even if Mayweather’s many yes men haven’t had the courage to let him know. His latest attempt to twist the story line about a possible fight next year with Pacquiao was so dated and absurd that even the sycophants in his sizeable entourage had to be rolling their eyes. The wizard of defense has finally been boxed into a corner. The charade is over, whether Mayweather realizes it or not. He must fight Pacquiao next, if his career is to have any legitimacy. And he must to do it on terms that reflect he won’t be the only superstar in the ring. Mayweather didn’t seem to grasp that last Dec. 13 when he broke his silence and tried to make it seem as if he were challenging Pacquiao to a fight, not the other way around. In an “’interview”’ with the Showtime network that employs him, Mayweather not only declared he wanted Pacquiao, but set a May Read More …

Dec 232014

By Lorela U. Sandoval – – SENDING balikbayan boxes to relatives in the Philippines has been a lifelong tradition for Filipinos abroad and a tangible reminder of their love to families and friends back home. It is, however, fraught with problems and risks – ranging from late delivery and damage to the shipment to pilferage and missing or lost cargo. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has received many complaints regarding balikbayan boxes over the years. Based on data provided by Eduardo Quizon of the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau of DTI, the countries with the highest number of balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines are the Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan, Singapore, Italy, United Kingdom (UK), and Korea. Latest data from DTI show that the countries with the highest number of cases or complaints were UAE (174 cases) USA (170), KSA (112), Kuwait (46), Singapore (25), UK (21), and Hong Kong (10). Dubai in UAE has the highest number of recorded cases at 167, prompting the DTI to label it a “hotspot”. In the USA, Chicago is tops at 52, while in KSA, it was Riyadh at 51. The DTI recorded 73 complaints in 2010, 212 in 2011, 168 in 2012, 173 in 2013, and 45 as of June 2014. — UPDATE January 15, 2015 – The Department of Trade and Industry placed 43 foreign and local sea freight forwarders on its blacklist after shippers and consignees lodged numerous complaints against the firms, mainly Read More …

Dec 062014

By Ana Villanueva-Lykes — THE most celebrated holiday in the Philippines requires a lot of work and time put into it – three months to be exact – to commemorate the humble birth of a baby in a manger. When the “ber” months roll in, Filipinos everywhere in the world begin the planning and the hard work that will lead to that one festive day. But the whole three months is not just about the preparing and the waiting. The preparation in itself becomes a celebration, for others, a sacred ritual, a tradition. Countdown begins You know Christmas has commenced in the Philippines when you start hearing Frank Sinatra jingling his bells in jeepneys even though there is nary a snowflake falling from the smog-filled sky. But the air is thick with anticipation and the joyful preparation ensues. The tradition of decorating and lighting the plastic trees begin. Suddenly, the air seems cooler and the strong desire to spend cannot be ignored. And it’s only September. Before December nears, the entire Christmas bonus – yet to be handed out – has already been spent. Malls are eager to indulge. Lavish displays of Christmas scenes are already in every corner. Gigantic empty boxes wrapped in glittering paper rests on artificial powdered snow while a red- suited dark-skinned fellow walks around dispensing ho-ho-ho’s. Concerts are already being planned, constructions are under way, holiday collections have been launched, and the daily practice for the Christmas program starts. Christmas has begun. Meanwhile in the Read More …

Nov 292014

By Niki Yarte — More than a decade since his big break in Mel Chonglo’s Lagarista, Piolo Pascual is still making waves and headlines in Philippine entertainment. His latest film, Starting Over Again with Toni Gonzaga, was a certified box office hit, raking in around P400 million at the box office. Currently he can be seen opposite Nikki Gil and Iza Calzado on prime time soap opera Hawak Kamay. He also just recently signed on to do a romantic Valentine’s Day feature with pop star Sarah Geronimo. His face and persona is still used to launch new products or promote old ones – from vitamin supplements to financial plans – and he still attends to his recurring gig as host and performer on ASAP. However, when his 2013 self-produced film On the Job opened to critical acclaim but struggled commercially, raking in only P11 million, doubts were raised about his continued credibility to fill theaters. The film was the latest in a string of projects that counted on his bankability but performed less stellarly than expected, including his team-ups with Angelica Panganiban (Every Breath U Take), Angel Locsin (Love Me Again), Regine Velazquez (Paano Kita Iibigin), and Bea Alonzo (Dream Boy). Last year, the 37-year old actor opened up about feeling “used up”, empathizing with fellow actor John Lloyd Cruz, who had earlier expressed his own intentions for early retirement, citing “being married to the industry” for practically half his life as his primary reasoning. Piolo added that he wanted Read More …

Sep 012014

BY NIKI YARTE – No doubt there have been remarkable strides in our effort to catch up with the rest of the world, particularly in adopting modern technology and best practices of advanced countries to make life in the Philippines manageable, if not comfortable. CCTV cameras are sprouting in every street corner, motorists have become accepting of cyclists sharing the road, green technology is fast making inroads in homes and industries. But alas, we are lagging behind in many areas as some bad old habits have taken deep roots and simply refuse to fade away. There are just some characters and situations that drive many Filipinos up the wall and out of the country faster than the promise of earning greenback. We chose only 15 that easily came off our mind or we’ll take forever . . . 1. Ugly Oldies Need Not Apply You are not likely to see this employer unless you meet his requirements: “Female with pleasing personality and good moral character, age 25 to 35”. Such discriminatory job vacancy announcement is so common that Filipinos have learned to accept it as the norm. In advanced countries, these requirements are a no-no; workers are not even required to divulge their age, religion, sexual orientation and marital status. 2. Divine Intercession In blatant disregard for the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, religious groups such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo and El Shaddai compel their members to vote as one bloc and campaign for candidates that support Read More …

Jul 012014

By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes IN A 2013 survey by Global Attitudes Project of Pew Research Center in Washington, Pinoys were reported to have a favorable view of the United States. The survey shows little love for the Land of Opportunity around the world except in the hearts of Pinoys. In fact, about 85% of us are reported to love America and everything it stands for. Only 81 % of Americans had a favorable image of their own country. What is it about Joe that Filipinos so adore? His tall striking demeanor? Could it be his hypnotic blue eyes that are so different from ours? Is it his commanding voice or the way he drawls and enunciates the word “apple”, making it sound like the sweetest fruit on earth? Perhaps it’s the jingling of coins in his pocket, sweet music that promises a better life? It’s that and a lot more. Let us count the ways. 1. Meet Joe – our description of beauty – tall, light skin, Greek nose, blue eyes, sophisticated. He is the complete opposite of our Aeta ancestry – short, dark, pudgy nosed, and behind the times. 2. When times are hard, who do we turn to? Joe. Or perhaps the most appropriate question is “where”. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute in 2010, there are over 1.7 million Filipino immigrants in the US, making the Pinoy population in the States the second largest immigrant group after the Mexicans. The smell of green currency Read More …