Is it the jokes or is it stuffy here?

A few days before the May 10 General Elections, I am watching’s rebroadcast of the annual “The White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner” with President Obama and Jay Leno, and I am thinking how journalism in America is relatively “safe.” Yes, there are the many war correspondents risking their lives, embedded or independent. The several injured and killed. When I say “safe” I mean within the confines of our borders. I do not deny the news reporter murdered on the street, or the anchorwoman stalked and killed, but the Committee to Protect Journalists recognizes six deaths since 1992. These journalists are usually not killed for their political affiliation, or for their conviction regarding electoral fair play. You see, when you’re a journalist taking sides, in America, you’re not exactly “fair game.” There is no physical bounty on your head. We tend to think “fair game” softly as exemplified in the ever-persistent late show roastings by Letterman, Leno, Kimmel, Ferguson, or O’Brien, or the banter on the Colbert Report, on McLaughlin Group, on Fox, and Hardball. Then there’s the slough of radio personalities. Need more? Go to the blogosphere, or dial a podcast. Such is the measure of a free press. Is J-School obsolete? I post therefore I the authority.

Later this year, I will join the voters of California and decide who will replace Arnold Schwartzenegger—Meg Whitman 1.0 or Jerry Brown 2.0? One media unfriendly and the other media savvy, or is it the other way around? They certainly don’t have their goons knocking off any journalist who complains about candidate availability, nor are they leveling the playing field by eliminating those opposed to their political aspirations. They are not preventing the registration of oppositional candidates. Further, CEO and Guru don’t need human shields, of family members or journalists.

Which brings me to my current preoccupation, the aftermath of “the Ampatuan Massacre” of November 23, 2009, in Maguindanao, a province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 57 people, among them, the following journalists

Henry Araneta, Radio DZRH
Mark Gilbert “Mac-Mac” Arriola, UNTV
Rubello Bataluna, Gold Star Daily
Arturo Betia, Periodico Ini
Romeo Jimmy Cabillo, Midland Review
Marités Cablitas, News Focus and DXDX
Hannibal Cachuela, Punto News
Jepon Cadagdagon, Saksi News
John Caniban, Periodico Ini
Lea Dalmacio, Socsargen News
Noel Decina, Periodico Ini
Gina Dela Cruz, Saksi News
Jihoy Duhay, Gold Star Daily
Jolito Evardo, UNTV
Santos Gatchlian, dxGO
Bienvenido Legarte, Jr., Prontiera News
Lindo Lupogan, Mindanao Daily Gazette
Ernesto “Bart” Maravilla, Bombo Radyo
Rey Merisco, Periodico Ini
Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, Midland Review
Marife “Neneng” Montaño, Saksi News
Rosell Morales, News Focus
Victor Nuñez, UNTV
Ronnie Perante, Gold Star Daily
Joel Parcon, Prontiera News
Fernando “Rani” Razon, Periodico Ini
Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, Manila Bulletin
Napoleon Salaysay, Mindanao Gazette
Francisco “Ian” Subang, Socsargen Today
Andres “Andy” Teodoro, Central Mindanao Inquirer

were murdered in order to prevent if not deter Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan, from registering his gubernatorial candidacy.

Mangudadatu was not in the group. He’s very much alive. Though, his wife and sisters leading the group intended to file on his behalf. The prime suspect: Andal Ampatuan, Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay and the son of the incumbent governor. Crime scene evidence points to him. His goons left behind a yellow backhoe stenciled with his name, among other things.

Yes, I had to respond with 2 poems after William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow.” In retrospect, perhaps my moodiness on Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” is attributable to the massacre.

Note: the murders were on the outskirts of the town of Ampatuan.

This is where presidential politics get sticky and why the massacre underscores and cautions May 10. Ampatuan’s father was a Corazon Aquino appointee and later a vocal supporter of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He delivered votes for her. As governor, the elder Ampatuan has maxed out his term in office. He has to step down. Who will deliver votes to Arroyo’s party then? But the younger. As the saying goes blood is thicker than water, and hell it does not cross party lines.

So I am online reading polls, and the concerns about the new Venezuelan electronic voting system being full of glitches. Who will be promoted to replace termed-out incumbent, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), the daughter of the 9th president, and thereby inherit the headache and blood feud that is Philippine politics? Which “dynasty” will return to the Malacanang Palace?

10 candidates glut the ballot:

Vetallano Acosta, KBL
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Liberal Party
John Carlos “JC” De Los Reyes, Ang Kapatiran
Joseph “Erap” Estrada, PMP
Richard “Dick” Gordon, Bagumbayan
Jamby Madrigal, Independent
Nicanor “Nicky” Perlas, Independent
Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD
Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva, Bangon Pilipinas
Manuel “Manny” Villar, Nacionalista

Look at this list. Of course I am inclined to watch, keenly, comically. I am interested in the “progress” of four candidates.

First, I have written poetry about Noynoy’s parents. Benigno, blacklisted by Ferdinand Marcos, exiled in Boston, only to return to the Philippines in 1983 to meet an assassin’s bullet on the airport tarmac, and his wife who, as I mentioned earlier, became the first female president of the Philippines in 1986.

In the wake of People Power that sent Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos to retire in Hawai’i, my mother travelled to the Philippines, to confront an errant stepfather.

These events inspired, A Dangerous Life (1988)—American TV journalist reports from Manila, at the same time, while free to do so, observes how unfree and targeted is the Filipinos press. Next to Lethal Weapon, from the year before, this is my favorite Gary Busey movie.

It is this Senator that leads the polls. Police and the military will be out in the street to prevent any riots if he does not win. Quirky or tampered electronic ballot beware!

Second, consider if Ronald Reagan’s filmography was a B-list of second-rate Rambo turned urban vigilante films. Would Ronald Reagan have won in 1980? GMA was his vice-president, then he was imprisoned for “plunder,” leaving her to finish off the term. I have seen the evidence of his plunder: Mistresses’ mansions rimming Lake Taal. He certainly wasn’t a favorite with the church, but the Everyman, he was a hero, though, Everyman received no quarter. Note: the President and Vice-President are voted for separately. Erap and GMA were politically unaffiliated.

Third, like “Noynoy,” Dick’s father, the first Gordon mayor of Olongapo, then Fuck City of Asia, was assassinated, Robert Kennedy style. Dick is the third Gordon mayor. His mother was second. Hmmm fiefdom? When the U.S. Navy left Olongapo, it seemed, everything of importance was renamed Gordon, and it were the Gordons who benefited most from the fleet’s presence as much from absence. Note: Erap and Gordon are fierce rivals. Erap coerced Gordon to leave his office. Rumor has it, Gordon entered the race very late to piss off and derail the presidentially pardoned criminal in his attempt at a sequel. GMA, what were you thinking?

That said, and not wanting to sound like a supporter—if I can manufacture any truth, among the above candidates, Gordon, helming SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority), the economic redevelopment zone created after the U.S. abandoned the naval base, is perhaps most responsible for attracting foreign investment into the Philippines. Hey, why not, when “Book City,” a printer and publisher magnet, was proposed, writers gotta laud. Erap wanted his cut, and made a law preventing the mayor of Olongapo from leading economic recovery. That backfired. There is an acronym for that kind of “plunderer”: EI, or Economic Intruder. There was money to be made of the pristine dense canopy that previously instructed Marines and pilots in Jungle Survival. Women in the sex-trade found new work, most likely in the microchip factory. More women were attracted to the area, in keeping of Olongapo’s tradition of recruiting talent. When there weren’t enough jobs, at least prostitution was made safe. The harbor became a megayacht and gambling destination. Would Erap have done the same? But promoted brothels? Made the exportation of entertainers more profitable? He would probably wanted his cut in barracks-salvaged toilets too.

Fourth, is GMA’s party successor, “Gibo,” a former Secretary of Defense. His full name is Gilberto Eduardo Cojuangco Teodoro, Jr. Noynoy’s full name is Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. They’re cousins. Blood in this case can cross party lines. Then again politics can be superficial, and the real bargaining is at the boardroom at the family business. Money mediates the bloodline.

Actually, I am watching the party’s vice-president hopeful, San Francisco-born dual-citizen, Eduardo “Edu” Barrios Manzano, another movie star. Ominous, he hosted the archipelago’s version of The Weakest Link. Yes, it’s the name. I have known of him. May have seen a flick or two. I don’t know where we are connected in the tree. But is it really uncanny or good positioning?

Again blood is thick in politics. GMA’s full name is Gloria Macaraeg Macapagal Arroyo. During the 2002 Binalonan town fiesta, I was in a Filipino American (Balikbayan) group photo with her. The Macaraeg families and the Manzano families share the same street. We branch from the same tree. Yes, I admit, I get sore listening to her name and her policies dragged, more so when her [the Administration) connection to the many deaths of journalists and activists are argued convincingly.

In politics blood is muddied or muddled.

So, to everyone else on the ballot, it’s nothing personal, omitting you, that I have nothing to say.

In theory, term limits were meant to correct if not penalize proponents of Corruption, Nepotism, Favoritism, Cronyism, Fraud, and other similar practices. To promote diversity of the governing body politic. To settle the rumor that incumbents rig to win. Such is the fantasy, or rather phantasy, or rather pantasy that is the gulag archipelago.

Why keep electing in a Western orientation. It’s not about which candidate can best present and deliver change. It’s about blood quantum. I think. What I briefed above, blood quantum can be murky.

Philippine Suffrage is a cadaver, madly piloting a gurney into an open grave. And being a cadaver, bloodless. Rather, instead of thinking corruption, nepotism, favoritism, cronyism, and fraud, think “royalty” out of which representatives are chosen. In this class, certain families dominate. Old Money. New Money. Old Money, the long-standing families that have owned 95% of the country’s wealth for at least a century. Wonder why there are only two breweries in the Philippines? Cuz cousin cousin, beer is kept in the family, albeit only two. Think Cojuangco. That said, with sugar cane, old tobacco, banks, shopping centers, etc, Old Money has bought its seat in the Forum and there is no law that can evict them. You’d just have civil war. New Money, the actors/actresses of stage and screen. You can just trust the face that has beguiled you for years. As if their scripted dialogue, having moved a nation into the cinema can move a nation out of international debt. In Manila, performers do not retire; they form political parties around their cult of personality. So, whereas term limits are to shorten time in political office, rotate old blood with new blood, what it really does—just shuffle family members and drama queens.

Blood quantum. Voters recognize family names. In many cities and towns, and I am sure provinces, politicians maintain their offices, even skirt term limits, because they have family voting for them to stay longer than they should.

Put this in under Utang Na Loob, the concept of “debt gratitude.” Examples included various “money in the pocket transactions.” Votes are never free, and the money buying them is an investment. Who knows, a politician can steer money from Manila and into his hometown, have it disappear without a trace. The Ampatuan connection with Malacanang Palace echoes. Sounds American don’t it, as in riders bloodsucking the strength of a meaningful bill, but politicians don’t protect their riders by gunning the opposition. Or have I missed this entirely.

Yes, it’s a fact, Pilipinos are related to each other, rather, Pilipinos can trace their family tree with such detail. Example, go to the municipal utility, ask a cute operations officer to pull up your family name, and hundreds if not thousands of hits will light up the computer screen. Their votes already decided. It would be utterly disgraceful if you voted against a distant fourth uncle gazillion times removed; families can turn against you. It could be fatal. Blood is thick than water. Obey.

Is it really stuffing?

So, for example, my professor gave me an A. He expects me to vote along his party lines. Or the police raids a nightclub known for prostitution, collects dinner money. They insist that the next raid can be avoided if the g.r.o.s vote accordingly.

Is it really stuffing?

Unless new voters are groomed. The overseas absentee vote has more impact. No other country has exported more people to the corners of the world.

Thank you Republic Act No. 9189 of 2003. I should be able to vote from the United States or elsewhere in the world outside the archipelago—if I claimed my citizenship.

Republic Act No. 8171 (October 1995) allows “Filipino women who lost their Philippine citizenship by marriage to aliens and natural-born Filipinos who lost their citizenship, including their minor children, on account of political or economic necessity, may reacquire Philippine citizenship…” and Republic Act No. 9225, the “Citizen Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003” (August 2003) declares “that all Philippine citizens who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship…”

I translate the reforms’ finer print correctly, maybe broadly. My mother was still a Philippine citizen when I was born in Hawai’i in a U.S. Army hospital. She was Naturalized in 1988. Therefore, according to the law I am a Philippine citizen because I was born to a Philippine citizen, furthermore meaning, my son was born to a Philippine citizen. The grey area: I am over the “age of majority” and lived much of my life in the States, thereby, I am not officially a Philippine citizen, but can claim it through paperwork and a fee. Likewise, my son too.

I am sure all of Massachusetts’ Filipino community will be gunning for emotional favorite, “Noynoy.” Bad pun indeed. But he did publically claim he wanted to avenge his father’s death. May the payback continue? Regardless, the privilege to vote, and shape policy through a representative government. Ok fantasy, phantasy, pantasy. The true body politic invested in the phantasmatic absentee voter? Who is far from the blood feud? No worries walking into a targeted voting booth.

I know this to be real. That could happen. When you have long hair like mine, you get pulled over at an impromptu police check point, get your passport or drivers license yanked. Good that it was dinner hour, the line of cars stretched along the highway, and the collection was a couple hundred pesos. Good thing it wasn’t more rural, more isolated, when my Get Out of Jail Card would not have meant anything. When you have long hair like mine, you are bakla, but if you don’t lisp, then you are New People’s Army, or an activist, but I am an American, my speech gives me away, and I can pay out of trouble.

I know this to be real. Votes have blood on them. Will have more blood on them. There are people who will give up the vote for a few thousand pesos. Maybe even less. Maybe for a sack of rice. Maybe for company shares. There are people who will die just to vote.

I wonder though, looking at the candidates above, is it worth dying to vote for any one of them.

If only Helen Thomas can carjack the President. I can get answers.