Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pork Barrel Scam Our Share of the Cake

We have so far been complaining about the PORK BARREL scam. The news that our congressmen and senators have stolen billions of pesos from government funds, generally meant to help underprivileged Filipinos like farmers, fishermen and so forth upset us so much. And, I believe we are right in feeling and keeping such sentiment. We have all the reasons to point our fingers towards specific government officials who think that because they are on top they have the freedom to use our tax-money as they want and when they want. So far we say that so much money was stolen by our elected and trusted officials through Janet Lim Napoles, the so-called, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) queen. To be exact, the said senators and congressmen have stolen more than 10 billion pesos of PDAF from 2007 up until 2009. That is according to Commission on Audit (CoA). That’s a lot of money to disappear from the government treasury in a span of three years without anybody knowing it. If indeed nobody knows, which I doubt very much. I mean, it’s beyond my comprehension how the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) release so much money without even asking where and how the money is being spent. And it is also surprising that it took CoA six long years before it realises that so much money was being used in fraud.

So, if anybody should take any responsibility, then DBM and CoA should not just wash their hands, as if they have done nothing wrong and point their fingers on others. They should also take part of the responsibility of that long running deception. After all, if they truly and honestly do their jobs, they are supposed to do an annual audit of government funds. So, how did corruption go unnoticed for as long as three years or perhaps even more?

If you think that the P10B stolen by senators and congressmen is too big, well, wait until you know how much PDAF, in the form of discretionary fund, malampaya fund and so on, the president has. Each congressman has P70M PDAF per year. The Vice President and senators are allotted P200M PDAF per year. But, what about the president of the republic? Last year alone, the president’s discretionary fund amounted to P102 billion (cf. In fact, with a lot of details, the so-called “makabayan bloc” in congress clearly said that the president’s pork goes up to more than P1-trillion. They said that President Aquino has “more than P1-trillion discretionary funds that are not subject to audit" (cf. It might be too much to say. But with this government, everything is possible. What is however surprising, if not revolting is the word “not subject to audit.” Who has given the president or anybody for that matter the right to use government money without being subjected to any audit? How do we know what he is doing with that enormous amount? It’s our money, not his. Remember?

What makes this whole thing even more surprising though, is that, the 2014 budget “still contains the P25.24-billion allocation for Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), along with the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs) and various lump-sum items comprising presidential pork” (cf. This happens even though majority of Filipinos are calling for it to be totally abolished. That is, including whatever presidential fund allocated in a form of a pork barrel. Maybe they simply cannot imagine themselves without the PDAF thing. Perhaps for the simple reason that most of our law-makers get their power from PDAF and not from the fact that they are elected by the Filipino people. Or, to put it simply and clearly, our politicians know that without PDAF, they will not have anything to buy votes come election time and therefore cannot win. After all, whether we like it or not, our politicians use their pork barrel to buy and manipulate every Filipino to their advantage during elections or even off election periods.

Many Filipinos are appalled and dismayed with the perception of Philippines as a “corrupt nation” after the latest issue of BizNews Asia labeled the Philippine congress as the “Philippines’ biggest criminal syndicate”. (cf. -lawmakers-after-the-magazine-cover-brands-congress-criminal-syndicate/). More than being dismayed, I think we should be ashamed to hear this. However, this is a reality our country is facing right now.

But are we right to blame only those on top in the whole PDAF event? Well, perhaps we have also to remember that each one of us have a rule to play in this whole issue. This is not only about senators and congressmen. This is about all of us as Filipinos. Well, I’m not saying that we are all thieves. I’m only saying that we have a part to play in the whole story for several reasons.

First, majority of Filipinos don’t really care about what their political leaders are doing. I just wonder how many of us know what bills and laws our congressmen and senators submitted, if any or supported and passed during their terms. I also wonder if we know that any bill they submit, if passed into law can affect us in our day-to-day life whether positively or negatively.

Second, we allow these politicians to use us. During elections politicians promise us so many things. And whatever they say, we swallow them readily. We don’t even think if what they say are true or viable or not. That is why most, if not all of their election promises are broken and forgotten the moment they sit in office.

Third, we tend to forget very easily. Sometimes, I wonder how we, Filipinos elect our leaders. I mean, how can people who have been convicted of a crime be elected into public office? Some people are even in prison serving a prison term after a particular conviction at the time they are elected. I take for instance Romeo Jalosjos, he was elected into congress while still serving a prison term after being convicted of raping a minor beyond reasonable doubt. Sen. Antonio Trillanes III, was also serving a prison term after being convicted for rebellion, if I’m not mistaken. Former President Gloria Arroyo, has been elected and re-elected into congress while being in a “hospital arrest.” She has not been convicted yet. But how can she truly represent the people of her congressional district if she is under arrest? Former President Joseph Estrada has also been convicted for plunder and now he is a mayor of Manila. We know that he has been granted executive clemency  by then President Gloria Arroyo, which made him eligible again to run for any public office. But being eligible to run should not necessarily mean victory. Anyway, he is in office now and so are the many other convicts and ex-convicts. And all this tells us only one thing. We forget or perhaps forgive a little too easily. So, we have to remember, if we hire a thief, then we should not blame anybody if he steals our money. I’m not saying that they will. But they might.

Fourth, we ask and expect so much from our politicians. If we are sick, we go to the politicians, to mayor, governor, congressman, etc. If we have no money for tuition fees, we go to the politicians. If we have no food, we go to the politicians. If we need this and that, we go to the politicians. I mean, they are not gods. So, we should not go to them for anything and everything especially if what we ask for are more personal than national. They are supposed to help and serve the country, not necessarily individuals.

Fifth, and probably the most dangerous of all, we ask money from our politicians. During elections, I know so many people who will not vote before they get money from as many candidates as possible. I know a particular mayoralty candidate last election who gave as much as P1500 per voter just to get the people’s favour. I know this for a fact because this was happening before my very eyes. I think it’s good to remember this. No matter how honest and well-intentioned a candidate is when s/he runs for public office, if s/he spends a lot more than s/he earns during his or her term, he/she will be forced to steal. In short, he will have to be corrupt in order to recuperate whatever he spent during election. And, corruption can be addicting. That is why when they finish their term in one particular government office, they look for another one elsewhere. And, they will not stop as long as they live. As if politics is a lifetime commitment.

I think we have to recognize the fact that the real score is not only with corrupt politicians and leaders. The problem is in the system itself that is forcing leaders to be corrupt. Therefore, if we truly want to stop corruption, then we have to change the very system that allows and forces our leaders and elected officials to be corrupt.

To sum-up all this. I think it is but proper to say that painful it maybe, we have a share, a slice in this whole cake called corruption.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Who Will Defend and Protect Our Rights? Who Will Fight for Us?

If we look at this administration, everything is like a well-crafted novel. It is like an expertly fashioned “tele-serye” or something. The plot is like this.

First, put everybody in. Let’s call it “Daang matuwid” (The straight path). Which then means, whoever is not within this “Daang matuwid,” whoever is “crooked” should be chopped off.

So what happens next? People bought his propaganda and Noynoy Aquino wins the presidency and a good number of senators and majority of the congressmen aligned to him. But then there is a problem. Many generals in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) are not his. The ombudsman and the chief justice are not supportive of him. Majority of the senators are not really buying his ideas.

So, the next plot. Remove the generals who are not loyal to the chief executive. Remove the ombudsman who might not be ready to support and do whatever the president wants. And remove the chief justice. He is not useful. He will not help give this skilfully-crafted, thrilling novel a beautiful ending. And he succeeds. Some generals are now in prison. Others are now fugitives. The ombudsman stepped down before even an impeachment trial against her starts. And finally, the chief justice is overwhelmingly impeached by the only impeachment authority, the senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
And all this was done not only by the people within the “Daang matuwid” circle, but rather with the full participation of those who are supposed to be outside the club. But just as you think that they have become part of the whole thing, well, you are mistaken. They are still the crooked ones, right? They don’t follow the “Daang Matuwid”. So, what to do? Election 2013 comes. Spin them out. The election result is, 60, 30, 10 pattern. So a good number of the “crooked” ones are not falling down. They are still hanging on. But at least, they are now a minority. But they promised a good fight, even as a minority. So, if they managed to hang-on with elections. We know something better. Let us see if this time around you will still manage to hold-on.


And that’s were Janet Lim-Napoles comes in. Call it “PDAF, PORK BARREL” scam or whatever you call it. In any case, four “crooked” senators are now put on the line, Former senate president, now minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Bong Revilla, Sen. Gregorio Honassan, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. Apparently, there are two that will be named when the right time comes. Some of them have already washed their hands before even being implicated. I suspect these two will be senators Bongbong Marcos and Tito Sotto. Both of them “crooked” senators, so to speak. I suppose there will be a few others just to wash away all suspicions that they are skilfully manoeuvring everything. But they will just be pity crimes because the rest will be “kaalyado ng presidente” (allied to the president). So they will make sure that if anything, it will just be a kind of allegation that they can wash off very easily as erroneous report and no proof, baseless.

So that’s how the plot goes until now.

So, like watching a “tele-serye,” I would say…. “Tunghayan and susunod na kabata…” (Watch for the next episode)…


It is hard to imagine that a thing like this can happen to noble and honourable country like the Philippines. I’m not saying that none of those charged and convicted are not guilty. After all, if they are already convicted, then they are truly guilty in the eyes of the law. Furthermore, those who are currently charged like the then President Gloria Arroyo and many others of her colleagues as well as those senators and congressmen, if they are guilty then let them pay for the crimes they have committed against this great nation.

My question however, is, with all these people, politicians and non-politicians alike, who are not allied to the president being out of power, then “Who will now defend and protect our rights? Who will now fight for us up there?” Who will tell them this is wrong and that is not right if they are just mutually supporting each other from the Macañang down to the smallest barangay official? I say, nobody. Nobody because,
One. The House of Representatives has long been infested by people who don’t even want to think. They simply nod their heads and say yes to whatever the president wants. This was proven during the supposed to be impeachment of the Former Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierrez. The impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Philippines, the RH Bill, now RH law issue and many others. Again, I’m not saying that those charged were not guilty because they might have been or they might be. But the way it went so fast with hardly or no deliberation in congress at all, for me was a clear proof that those people are more than eager to jump at and do exact as the president says. I don’t know if most of them are even aware that they have the power to say no to the President if they so desire and with a reason.
Two. The Judiciary. In connivance with the “crooked” ones who might have thought that aligning themselves with the President on this matter was a great move, the then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was out in no time. I think they were simply taken by the “trial by publicity” that this government staged just to easily sway them on the president’s favour. Little did they know that the former Chief Justice was conceived by the president as a threat to his power knowing exactly that he was utterly anti-Nonoy Aquino. Of course, right or wrong, we have to point to the fact that he was a mid-night appointee of the former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, he was not impeached because of his being a mid-night appointee. He was instead convicted of lying to the nation by not honestly declaring his correct SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth), as if those who convicted him are very honest about it. But still, if he intentionally did what he was convicted about, then let him pay for his crime. 

Now, the Supreme Court is headed by the Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Such a nice name. And it’s good to note that she is the first woman chief justice of this country. However, looking at her voting records, the Gloria Arroyo thing, Hacienda Luisita, etc., which proves that she generally, votes in favour of the President and the president’s interests, should race some eyebrows. So, she is not there for nothing. And it was not for nothing that her predecessor was kicked out of power.

Three. The Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales? Well, she is not there for nothing either. Whether we like it or not she is just a “tuta” (a puppet) of the president. All her convictions are the opponents of the president. Except two or three of his allies that either she didn’t like at all or she simply couldn’t protect them anymore because of the damning evidence or evidences presented against them. She denies this reality, of course, but a fact remains a fact. By the way, we have to be compassionate with her. Because according to her, and this is happily and readily made public by the media, she received a “death threat”. In case one wants to believe her story.

Four. The Department of Justice. Or, should I call this the department of injustice? Mind you, when Justice Secretary Leila De Lima was the head of the CHR or Commission on Human Rights, I must say, she was really effective in helping people and in making sure that human rights are equally applied to all. And nothing the then President Gloria Arroyo and her allies did that for her was not right escaped her watchful eyes. But now that PNoy makes her the Secretary of Justice, well, honestly, I don’t find her just at all. Everything that President Aquino and his colleagues want or do for her is alright. No more question of human rights.

Five. The COA or Commission on Audits. What else do we need to say? We all have seen how The Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson  Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan allowed the commission to be used in favour of this administration. She might be right. But another “trial by publicity”, like the Corona event, will not be beneficial for this country. And yet, the commission is supposed to be totally independent.

Six. The CHR or the Commission on Human Rights. The current head of the CHR is Madam Etta Rosales. She is an active member of the “Akbayan party-list”. She also represented the said party-list from the 11th to the 14th congress. That is, from 1998 to 2007) when President Aquino made her the head of this said commission. The said group used to be an activists group and “rebelde” by nature. So they used to say. Now that they are completely allied with the president as a group, I wonder if this woman is really up to the task. So far, I have not seen anything reasonable she has done in connection with her task as head of the CHR. It seems to me that anything the president and his allies do or say is alright with her. It is a pity though, that such a commission do not have a real head, a good leader. No wonder why not a single extra-judicial killing in the country has been solved since she was appointed “head” of the commission. I wonder if anybody has really been charged with this matter, let alone convicted.

The “Akbayan” group that Mrs. Rosales used to represent in congress, was originally formed to fight for the poor and the powerless. Now they fight for the rich and the powerful, unfortunately including the president.

Seven. The PNP (Philippine National Police). The PNP has really been very inefficient from the very beginning. In most municipalities, cities and provinces in this country, the local or provincial PNP chief becomes like the head of security details of the governor or the mayor. And anything the head of the LGU (Local Government Unit) wants they do even if they know that it is illegal or not right. And anything they don’t want they readily obey because it is the governor or the mayor that says so. Otherwise, they will not get any extra bonuses or worse, they will be thrown into far and physically dangerous areas if no mayor accepts them.

By the way, we have to give honour to our PNP personnel, because they recently came out as the number one most corrupt government institution in the country. That’s according to the “latest Global Corruption Barometer of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (cf. ). This is a very sad and unfortunate reality for us because those people who are supposed to protect us are the ones we cannot and should not count on.
I must also mention that the PNP is headed by the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) Secretary Mar Roxas. Roxas is now dabbed as the apparent front runner of the 2016 presidential elections. No wonder why President Aquino personally turned-over Janet Lim-Napoles to the PNP when it was the NBI that was looking for her. It was a well calculated move designed to slowly save the name of the PNP and that of its head, Secretary Roxas and probably his eventual candidacy during 2016 presidential elections.

Eight. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). Surely I will not be wrong if I say that every single wing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is totally under the President’s control. They claim neutrality. But I doubt very much. With all the replacements and manoeuvring of personnel in the AFP in the span of one or two years by no less than the president himself, surely was not done for nothing. After all, he knows that the AFP can turn against him anytime like it did with his mother former President Corazon Aquino.

Nine. The BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue). Of all people in the Cabinet of the President, the BIR Commissioner Kim Henares is supposed to be the most independent. But time and again, she allows herself to be used by the administration. She ran after several personalities not allied with the president. When the Janet Lim-Napoles event came up, she made a public statement that she will make investigations regarding Napoles’ tax records as well as those allied to her. So, who knows what else she can do for this administration. I’m not taking Napoles’ side because she might truly have pocketed Billions of Pesos from the PORK BARREL. However, I don’t think it was right for the BIR Commissioner to make IPAL at the most critical time. If she could have done that privately, she might have been more effective. After all, if her intention really was right, then I don’t see any reason to make it public before anything was done.

Ten. The Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. Now, with Sen. Frank Drilon as the new senate president and with most of the senators being allied with the President, I don’t know if anything truly good for this country can come out of this senate. I fear that from now on, most of the senators will just be another “tutas” (puppets) of the president. After all, you will never say anything against the president once you know that the moment you open your mouth against him, you are in deep trouble.

Eleven. The NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). The NBI has always been under the president’s power. It has never come up with anything truly independent. And now, with the apparent, resignation of the NBI Dir. Nunnatus Rojas, Aquino will just put another person that he can easily tell what to do and what not to do. But if the president will not accept his resignation, then, this just goes to say that he is just as useful to him as has always been.

Twelve. The National Media. In the Philippines, the media has always been deemed to be totally independent. It used to be. But is it still now? Well, media groups and personalities might not like this. But most of our national media that there is now is simply protective of the president beginning with the powerful ABS-CBN media group, Inquirer, GMA, TV5 and so forth. That is why whenever something that will likely implicate the president and his allies come out, the media covers it up so as not to be seen and known by the public. On top of that, whatever the president deems important and whatever his programs of government are, the media readily supports. And this kind of connivance is very unfortunate and dangerous because this means, no one will really tell us the truth from upstairs anymore.

I take for instance, what the media had been claiming time and again. The FOI bill. They know that the president is not at all supportive about this matter. But did the media really say something truly critical against Noynoy Aquino for not supporting this bill as he used to shout during the campaign period? Well, they say a little word here and there but they never insisted, not even a little bit. This is because they don’t want to put the president in the spot-light. After all, they are not behind him for nothing. They are one of his tools for better publicity.

Thirteen. Vice President Binay. What do you say about our VP? Well, from the time he became the Vice President, I have never heard Binay saying anything against the President. Anything the president says, he approves. And yet, he calls himself an opposition. I wonder what kind of opposition personality he is. Can you imagine, when the clamour from the people to abolish PORK BARREL came up, Binay was interviewed by one reporter, at that time, PNoy did not denounce the PORK BARREL yet. He said, “the PORK BARREL is needed for the country”. But when the President made a public statement reconsidering his position on the issue, he also said, he supports the President’s position on the matter. Mr. Binay, do you really stand for something or you are simply worried about your own popularity. I mean, how can an opposition leader be silent when he knows that all his “Kaalyados,” both in senate and in congress are under fire, by the very person and people he is opposing? I pity you Sen. Enrile and your colleagues, but you are alone in this struggle. You cannot count on Binay. On the other hand, if any of you are guilty of any crime against the people of this sovereign nation, then, you better pay for it.

So, if the crooks played the game of the president in their crookedness, well, the president proved to be more “crooked” than they are.

So, coming back to my question above, who will now truly protect the interests of the people and this entire nation? My dear Filipino people, we cannot count on anybody on top anymore. So if we want this country to be truly “matuwid,” we should not count on the president or anyone in power for that matter. Fighting against powerful and influential people might be hard. And, alone, we cannot do anything. But if we stay united for the common good, I think we can do something. Together, we can be a force to reckon with. And together we will win this battle against this people who are abusing our kindness. We have proven that during EDSA People’s Power I and II. We have proven that during the “Million People March.” And I think together, we can do something. So, we should be together, united when necessity arises and to produce  a better result for this great nation.


Friday, October 26, 2012

There Must Be Something Wrong

If People don’t do what they know they should do, then there should only be one reason. There must be something wrong somewhere, somehow.

In 2011, Bayawan City passed the so-called “Helmet Ordinance”. This is such a good idea and this also has a noble purpose which is to carve motorcycle accident related injuries and indeed deaths.

I am for safety myself. I always believe in the saying, “prevention is better than cure.” I know it’s a cliché, a very common saying, but it has all the truth in it.

Being from the neighbouring town of Sta. Catalina, and being an advocate of safe driving myself, I really thought that it is high time such an ordinance is passed. I also hope that my own home town would follow suit.

Just to have a taste of how it feels to be driving in all comfort and safety, I went to the city of Bayawan to have a first-hand experience of this. But surprisingly, what greets me in the city is a totally different reality.
First, on the boundary of Sta. Catalina and Bayawan City, next to the police outpost was written in big letters, “WE IMPLEMENT HELMET LAW IN BAYAWAN CITY” with corresponding penalties if somebody is caught and so on. This sounds good, doesn’t it? And right there and then, somebody riding a motorcycle came passed through me, wearing short pants and a basketball jersey wearing no helmet, nothing to protect himself and the police man just looked at him as if nothing happens. So I simply said to myself ‘what’s going on here?’

Second, I went on a little further and suddenly a man, apparently drunk, fell down his motorcycle right in the middle of the road. He wears no helmet and his head hit the tarmac first. He was also driving fast. So the ambulance came and took him to the hospital, dying. This happened just a few meters away from the police outpost. And not a policeman did anything, except when the accident-fallen man, was about to be taken to the hospital. So, sadly, they came only to record the incident and nothing more.

 Third, going still further, I noticed that in fact I was the only “Mohican” that was wearing a helmet. I simply did not see anybody else wearing a helmet aside from myself. So what happened to the law? And how is it being implemented if nobody is following it and at the same time nobody is arrested or at least being reprimanded for not obeying the law?

Here is the funny thing about this. On my way home, on a highway, not being in a hurry, I drove very slowly. Then two persons, a man and a woman, went in front of me driving considerably fast. They had a helmet each, alright. But the thing is they both had their helmets on their arms and not on their heads. I mean, it really defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Helmets are for heads not for arms, mind you. There are other things that are fit to protect our arms when driving a motorcycle. We know that, of course. Anyway, just to cut the long story short, knowing that those two motorcyclists are going to pass through the police outpost I mentioned earlier, I followed them behind. As soon as we come close to the check point area, my mind tells me that at least, they should tell the two to wear their helmets on their heads and not on their arms because then it becomes absolutely useless to have helmets without wearing them properly. But, perhaps, this is not really my lucky day. The two police men sitting down comfortably under a tree just looked at them and not one of the two moved a muscle to do his job.

Here is the deal. Republic Act 10054, also known as the Motorcycle Helmet Law, requires any motorcycle riding person to wear a helmet. And, as a matter of fact, just to show this is a serious matter, the law provides corresponding penalties if somebody is caught disobeying it. SEC. 3. Of the said ACT says: “Mandatory Use of Motorcycle Helmets. — All motorcycle riders, including drivers and back riders, shall at all times wear standard protective motorcycle helmets while driving, whether long or short drives, in any type of road and highway.” There is also a corresponding penalty if somebody chooses to disobey the law and is subsequently  caught. SEC. 7. Penalties. Says — “(a) Any person caught not wearing the standard protective motorcycle helmet in violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine of One thousand five hundred pesos (Php1,500.00) for the first offense; Three thousand pesos (Php3,000.00) for the second offense; Five thousand pesos (Php5,000.00) for the third offense; and Ten thousand pesos (Php10,000.00) plus confiscation of the driver's license for the fourth and succeeding offenses.’

So really, the law is there. But does anybody really care? Well, apparently, not many. Surely not those riders I encountered on the streets of Bayawan City. Not those two who decided to wear their helmets on their arms. And also, not those two policemen who preferred to be comfortable under the tree instead of fulfilling their duty. As for me, well, I will never compromise my own safety as well as the safety of the people along my way.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Filipino Way

I find it funny or perhaps interesting how Filipinos do things. For instance, when you take a ceres bus or any bus for that matter, you will see people rushing to the newly parked bus. Then immediately, you will see people crowding at the door and pushing each other just to get in first. Seeing how people are struggling really hard to get in while the others are blocking your way with their feet, arms and body, and anything else possible, you will obviously feel like doing the same thinking that you might run out of seats. Then eventually you get in. And once inside you realise that the bus is just half-full or half-empty depending on how you see things. Then on top of that, the moment you are in the bus, you are there sitting down and you still have to wait for a good 30 minutes or so before the bus eventually leaves for your destination. Then while sweating all the way for running, and rushing and muscling your way in, you come to think, what did I hasten to get in for, if after all we will still wait for this long under this heat and humidity?

Here is a good one, the moment you are on the bus you will really see that everybody ignores everybody. If you know someone among your fellow passengers, he or she will just say, “Hello? Where are you going?” And the rest, you act as if you don’t know each other. Otherwise you are good friends. But not quite on the bus.

Then we normally say that Filipinos are very courteous and respectful. But who will ever say good morning, good afternoon, good evening on the bus. Well, I haven’t heard any. Not even myself.

Here is what some people do on the bus. The moment you are inside, obviously, the first thing you do is to look around for a seat. Then you will find only one seat that is good for three passengers with two people sitting down comfortably on each end. Then you will see one person with big belly sitting down with his big legs widespread as if he is sitting down on his sofa drinking a bottle of beer watching television. What? You are doing this on a bus? Well, unfortunately, some people do. Then you have no choice. There is only one place left and you have to be seated especially if you are up for a long trip. So you put yourself next to that person and you spend the rest of your trip looking for an opportunity to move to another seat. And if you don’t find one, then you spend the rest of your trip regretting having seated next to the person who thinks that the whole bus is his.

What about respect? Our parents and elementary school teachers always reminded us to respect our elders and the elderly. I'm on a bus one day and an elderly woman comes in. My instinct immediately tells me to get up and give her my seat when I hear the conductor saying, “Naa ray manaog sa unahan, lola!” (Somebody will get down a little farther, grandmother!). Hearing that, I feel kind of assured. So I don't give her my seat. And it's true, somebody gets down a little father and another one a little farther and again another one a little farther away. But lola never gets a seat. Why? Because nobody cares. Every time somebody gets down, a stronger man or woman is there ready to take the seat before she could even come near. So what about respect for the elders and the elderly? It’s everybody’s guess.

Here is another one. A man with only one leg and a pair of crutches got into the bus. I was appalled that nobody really thought of helping him. I would have helped him myself, but unfortunately I was far behind. And it took a while for the bus conductor to realise that the man needed help. The moment he was on the bus, hardly anybody, moved to give him the way. Nobody really considered the fact that he is a handicapped person. Talking of respect, gallantry and kindness.

Somebody might think that I am so negative about Filipinos. Well, I’m a Filipino myself. So I have no to reason to undesirably criticize my own self. No. I’m not being negative. I’m simply reminding us of what we should be and that we are not and what we should do, that we don’t do.