D’ Strafford levels up: ‘Proving’ the upwardly mobile phantoms of the elections

You have to give the guys from D’Strafford credit for cheek, for cobbling a parallel #Halalan2016 universe.

You have to give them credit, too, for causing very respectable and decent folk to hyperventilate with joy.

d strafford

Never mind that the morning after, the equally respectable Manila Bulletin had to take down the   news item about Mar Roxas “sustaining” his lead over rival wannabe-presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Santiago.


I guess it’s hard for professionals to ignore the reality of D’Strafford’s latest press release. Guess it’s hard to defend a survey firm’s credibility when their release mentions candidate Poe twice, under different rankings.

poe twice

It’s also hard to keep a straight face when the Sun Star — whose editor got into a tussle with social media critics after its report on Strafford’s debut — placed in ”      ” project manager JM Balancar’s defense of their methodology.

It’s the “proving” question, dudes, Balancar told journalists in  press conference following the release of their April 13-18 alleged survey.

He was asked why their press release had nothing to back up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte ‘s rape joke scared off some fans. He said other things, of course. Feel free to read the quotes.


Unlike other survey firms, D’ Strafford sends out a press release, instead of a detailed report that includes mechanics and sub-topics.

We still haven’t seen the actual “proving” question. So we don’t know if voter-respondents got lost in the racing syntax of D’ Strafford’s pollsters. It’s a trademark.

Read: Ro-Ro and the Funny Survey

Maybe Balancar’s just exciteable. Maybe its ecstasy. Hey, you can actually “feel” them breathless with admiration whenever they tweet about Roxas.

It’s the kind of wide-eyed wonder that gals and guys fall for. They’d be lovely in front of the television cameras, yes?

Except it’s also hard to get a handle on these guys. They are virtual phantoms. Read Thinking Pinoy’s latest report.

All that money spent for this reported un-commissioned major survey by a “family-owned corporation with five members” — if the SunStar got the details right.

I got some names during an earlier interview with an incorporator named Mark Lim.

But D’ Strafford dudes go through names as fast as Balancar rushes through his sentences.

Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, credentials a top secret.

The SunStar story said it was in-house consultant Ralph Fuentes who did the honours of presenting results of the first survey.

ralph Fuentes

But they seem to have levelled up fast, if we can trust the tabloid Abante, another eager chronicler of D’ Srtafford.

They apparently now have a “survey director” by the name of John Stevenson. 


When I clicked the share button on that story, here’s what came out.


So I googled John Stevenson.

And, hey, these dudes must be real movers and shakers!

Imagine that, a Conservative British MP for survey director?

stevenson mp

Or so Abante claims. You would think they’d bring a photographer to a press con announcing the results of a major survey. You would think any reporter these days would have a mobile phone with a still and video camera.

Instead, we get a file photo and a leap of faith on the part of the editors. The story actually sounds lifted from yet another wacky press release — though I’ll lay the blame for the photo on Abante.

I was tempted to write to Mr. Stevenson but suddenly thought of the embarrassment that could bring Roxas, the man who would be President. But I will. Tomorrow.

Meantime, let us rejoin in the miracle! And let us enjoy the cosmic tweets from the phantoms of this election.


Ro-Ro and that funny survey

“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.

But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.

A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing  headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.

daang matuwid


The day before, Pulse Asia released the results of the ABS-CBN commissioned survey, showing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte extending his new front-runner position, from 30% to 32%.

Pulse Asia said Duterte managed to capture “a sizeable plurality of Filipino registered voters.”


READ: Duterte extends lead in latest ABS-CBN survey

Had one of the two other big survey firms like the Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Laylo released the April 20 report, it would have been major news.

Both firms have displayed similar rankings, though with different percentages and margins of error.

The catcalls that followed were louder than the hosannas. Many Roxas supporters were too embarrassed to join the chorus, for good reason.

Only a few tabloids carried the momentous announcement. One report, credited to the Philippine Star, actually comes from its Filipino-language tabloid, and has since been taken down.

published Curious website

A simple Google search brings you to the website of  D’ Strafford Research & Strategies, Inc.

The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.

Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.

When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey. 

D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.

I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.

A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”

Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?

Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.

When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.

I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.

He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.

Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Professional style

I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader.  Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.

Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.

D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.

Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:

balancar email


Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.

But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.

pulse 2nd choice better

D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.

Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:

“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.” 

You make try to decipher that.


Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).

leni on d'strafford

After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.

He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”

A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”

Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.

Screengrab photo posted by Mariah Sanchez

It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.

Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.


So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.

Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.

Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.

This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.

Big swing vote…and I’m one of them

In very tight electoral contests, analysts like to peer at the swing votes — the undecided, uncommitted voters.

The latest Pulse Asia survey results show six percent of 5,200 respondents having no presidential or vice presidential choices. They could make a difference given that the top bets are in neck-to-neck races.

The survey section dealing with second preferences also shows that an overwhelming number of those without original candidates also do not have alternate bets — 84% for the presidency, 78% for the vice presidency.

I’ve never been interviewed for these surveys. But I’m in that swing vote demographic. The NOTA (none-of-the-above) crowd.

But I have pledged to vote and continue to wrestle with conscience and study the candidates.

Do I vote so that particular candidates don’t win? Every voter will dislike some candidates more than others. Do I vote for the least evil? Those are questions for one’s conscience. I have no answers yet.

But there’s no point in bashing other voters. Each Filipino has the right to vote, according to that personal light. Even while disagreeing with other people’s choices, some part sees where they are coming from.

Just how real are these wannabe presidents?

#4, Mar Roxas

Roxas, former transport and interior government secretary, has spent the most in campaign ads, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) — P969,173,267 in the pre-campaign period as of Jan. 31 this year. That’s ad time, not including the government resources poured into getting media mileage for Roxas.

Yet there he languishes, despite Edwin Lacierda’s hopeful noises, and despite a switch to a combative campaign image at the start of the official campaign season.

Most people just don’t get Roxas. I’m one of them. He claims to be pure — “hindi magnanakaw” (not a thief, an obvious reference to Vice President Binay’s plunder raps).

But it’s not enough to claim you’re not corrupt. A real enemy of corruption speaks out, consistently, against anomalies and shortcuts in governance. Roxas is zero on this point.

He attacks Binay but fails to mention that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, his ally, has been untouchable despite links to pork barrel scandals and a host of other complaints filed with the Ombudsman. He also backed the administration’s insistence on doling out pork, even with two defeats at the Supreme Court. His department was among the biggest beneficiaries of discretionary funds.

Roxas claims to be pro-poor (well, his wife claims he is, by way of tattered house shirts). He claims to be pro-environment. But he has defended his miner friends, as if oblivious to documented cases of abuses that reached the Supreme Court. Roxas, infamous for the line, “kung alam ko lang” (had I known…) probably doesn’t know that the Supreme Court ruled against his friends. That puts in question his vaunted high IQ and educational pedigree.

Roxas is also silent on  the involvement of a Liberal Party governor who rewarded Shenzhou Mining Group — whose nickel mining operations were suspended after it created a waste pond right on the shoreline of Claver town, Surigeo del Norte — by petitioning the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to allow shipment of ore worth P179 million.

mar shenzou1

He may not be a brute — his word for Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte — but he hasn’t raised a pinky finger to stop the brutalities of this administration. Again — he pretends not to know. He’s so ignorant he once told a lumad evacuee to seek help from his military tormentors. And Roxas was in the company of Surigao del Sur governor, Johnny Pimentel, who’d long sounded the alarm over military and paramilitary atrocities.

Roxas loves to parade his technocrat abilities. He headed the Transport Department and hand-picked his successor. MRT, LRT, airports, traffic — ’nuff said. A former MRT executive has named him and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya as responsible for anomalous deals responsible for repeatedly stranding millions of commuters in the national capital.

He slams Sen. Grace Poe for theatrics. And yet Roxas is the butt of jokes for all those awkward, laughable attempts at presenting his pro-poor credentials — by posing as a pedicab driver, stevedore, traffic aide, rescuer, even a carpenter.

Graphic from politico.com

Roxas is not just saddled with the absence of a backbone. He’s an opportunist who has ignored the most atrocious deeds just to stay in the good graces of a tantrum-prone President. Despite public weeping, he couldn’t even be bothered to confront the President on the deaths of 44 elite cops in Mamasapano.

#3 Duterte

Duterte has overused that hyperbole excuse. He’s given too many threats, spat at civil liberties too many times.

Now he claims a Binay victory will usher in a dark age for the country. He may be right there. But how can he slam Binay’s corrupt ways and proclaim affection for the Marcos dictatorship? He apparently has double standards for corruption, the same way he does for human rights.


Read: Killing for Peace in the Philippines

#2 Binay


The vice president has taken to criticising the inefficiencies of the Aquino administration. Check. We agree.

He has also attacked corruption in the Aquino administration. Check. We agree.

But he, too, faces very serious corruption charges. That huge hacienda. The overpricing of building contracts. Sweetheart deals. We’re not talking spare change. We’re talking big, big money.

Read: Senate probe on Binays: ‘Plunder through grand conspiracy’

And he has responded to these with a strategy of evasion, hoping the largesse he gives to local government officials across the country will allow him to rack up their command votes.

Many people say better an efficient master of corruption than a bumbling one. Good god. And we wonder why young people sneer when we lecture them about martial law.

As retired journalist  Alex Allan notes:

A parallel situation to voting for Binay is smoking. One has been given tons of evidence that smoking causes cancer and kills and yet one continues to smoke? That’s akin to committing suicide. In the same vein, we have already been shown tons of evidence that Binay’s billions have been gained from graft and corruption and we still would want to vote for him? That, too, is akin to committing suicide.

Read my story: Source of Binay funds a puzzle (and that’s not even covering all aspects of the raps he faces)

#1 Poe

Poe is bright. She’s sharp. On many governance issues, she is ready with figures and analysis. I like her platform of governance and don’t agree with others who urge her to junk every policy of Mr. Aquino.

The Supreme Court has handed her a victory, giving her the legitimacy needed to rev up her campaign. (I have no issues on grounds of citizenship or residency.)


But I’ve been troubled by the stance Poe has taken on several issues — her response to the INC’s efforts to stop the investigation of its leaders, for one.

Read Grace Poe and the INC

She shows some problematic tendencies in the face of negative reports — always chalking these to malicious enemies, dodging straightforward responses, ignoring opportunities to provide clear proof in the face of silly reports and thus, giving detractors a longer shelf life.

My biggest reservations, however, have to do with a penchant for ingratiating herself with power blocs. There was the INC And then the Marcoses, obviously to gain some northern Luzon votes.

There’s a strong taint of slip-sliding morality in her fluffy stance to give Bongbong Marcos space to decide on whether the nation is owed an apology for his father’s rapacious regime.

Charles Englund on Facebook disagrees:

“You may be missing the need to ally and talk in campaign speak during this period to appeal to broadest segment possible. The PNoy role was clearly a throwaway olive branch, as is the BBM comments.”

He believes people won’t vote for Binay. But that’s not what Pulse Asia says, unfortunately. If people will go for him in the unlikely event that Poe can’t finish the campaign, they could go for him if they find her playing cutesy too many times.

We’ve lost the strong, steely woman who topped the last senatorial race. Grace Poe needs to find her moxie again, be firm, be strong, be true. Babae ka, Grace. Show us true grit.


 It’s about us, friends

The most common question these days is, “who are you voting for.” The question is often posed as a challenge for every critique of any candidate.

The honest answer is, I have no choice yet. But even if I did, it would make no difference. My vote doesn’t confer sainthood on anyone. Nor does your vote.

My vote won’t deprive me of critical faculties. Nor should yours.

We’re so preoccupied at latching on to politicians, seeing them as saviors. We don’t believe in ourselves as citizens.

That’s why we cannot bear to acknowledge our bets’ weaknesses, before and after victory. That is why we are where we are today, with youth so disenchanted they’re raring to throw egg on our faces.

Should we blame them? No, in many ways, they’re right. We need to regain their trust.

Having a candidate is no excuse to play blind, deaf and dumb to their failings. We mock the Yellow Army for dropping the first, crucial word in “critical collaboration”. And yet almost all of us are doing the same thing all over again.

These politicians are not going to save the nation. It’ll be up to us — all of us, it doesn’t matter who your bet is — to rein them in. Silence is the greatest friend of the abuser. Let’s not forget that.


Even when he said enough, few people believed that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be sailing off into the night.

Duterte has always been a lightning-and-thunder, one-man spectacle. With his latest pronouncement — now running for the 2016 Presidency –expect the Duterteserye to dominate the news and social media.

Whether you like him or not, Digong has shaken the odds for 2016.

His strengths may not be enough to give him victory. Not yet. But he has that rarest of political wealth — true believers. He has more than enough to bloody the noses of the two main power blocs.

He will hurt Roxas more than Poe. READ WHY on scaRRedcat’s latest blog on ABS-CBNNews.com:

UPDATE: I asked Norodin Alonto Lucman , who has filed his candidacy for the senatorial elections and is expected to be in a Duterte slate: How does he feel about Sen. Alan Cayetano, the mayor’s running-mate, if and when? Cayetano is at par with Bongbong Marcos and Roxas where the MILF and many Muslims are concerned.

Noor’s answer: Honestly, do we have a choice? Bongbong Marcos is a liability in Mindanao although it was assumed that he will deliver the North and Western Visayas votes. That is wishful thinking. Bisayans and Mindanaoans will vote for Duterte, hands down. Cayetano is a good prop but he might learn a thing or two about humility with Mayor Duterte.


Metro Manila is the ultimate battleground. There are 22 million votes in Mindanao and as of this writing 70% are in favor of Duterte candidacy. This is likely to surge after today’s announcement. He is also ahead in the Visayas region, ahead of Santiago and even beating Mar Roxas in his region, including Capiz. Luzon will be contested by three candidates from Luzon but Duterte will dominate the masa vote. Metro Manila has a sizable Bisayan and Mindanaoan population. They will campaign not because of some election circus in Manila but of survival and self-dignity. Having said that, Mindanao/Bangsamoro unity – especially the 5-million strong Muslim votes nationwide – is the key to Duterte’s presidency. His senate slate have to tag along because he needs his senators to push his sweeping agenda in Congress. This is a non violent revolution. But if Luzon resist, Mindanaoans knows how to fight too.

Another reader, Godofredo Bernabe · notes:

Duterte’s entry into the presidential race will alter significantly the political landscape and voters equation. PDP-Laban may attract NP (of Manny Villar that has 3 VPs but no presidential candidate). Pacquiao also may leave VP Binay and move to Duterte’s camp. LP nagmamatigas NOT TO LOWER TAX RATE FOR THE WORKING CLASS (one-third of the workers income) prolonged also by the boring LP bets. You have 2 Mannys (Villar and Pacquiao) and the ‘money” they bring to the table of Duterte. Mass exodus is expected.

*Must admit, haven’t thought of the two money bags.

Meanwhile, LenDante Clarino believes Roxas will be the biggest loser and Poe the biggest gainer from a Duterte run … but for a different reason. He says Mr. Aquino will back Poe secretly to ensure his peace in the post-presidency days:

With ‪#‎Duterte‬ entering the prez race and the consequent exodus of NP leaders and others or their shedding off of their political skin to show off to the Davao Mayor, ‪#‎MarRoxas‬ and that idiotic bandwagon, ‪#‎TuwidNaDaan‬ is a goner. The main beneficiary of this latest move by the ‪#‎Digong‬would be ‪#‎GracePoe‬. Foundling or not, natural-born, she’s not, nothing will stop ‪#‎PNoy‬ from throwing his all-out support to Poe—albeit secretly—by using the resources of his office—which last time we look, cornered almost 50% of the PhP2.66 trillion of the 2015 national budget in the form of lump sum funds and other ‘insertions’ including his office’s share in the current deliberations for the proposed PhP3.1 trillion 2016 budget, which is an election year. 

This president will do anything just to avoid jail-time after his stint ends next year. He has this track record when he went all out with his previously unknown ‪#‎DAP‬ pork funds and accordingly bribed—per Sen. Jinggoy Eatrada—the senator- judges in impeaching ex-Chief Justice Corona. If Poe doesn’t bite this ‘carrot on a stick,’ a repeat of “Noy-Bi” would be a likely possibility. In the meantime, it may do well for his supporters to ensure the impending win of ‘El Presidente Duterte’ by pressuring ‪#‎Comelec‬ and its partner-in-crime ‪#‎Smartmatic‬ and expose this syndicate and the fraud that is, ‪#‎PCOS‬ (PNoy’s Criminal Option in Sabotaging) elections.




Walden Bello: ‘Roxas a Better Choice than Poe and Binay? Are You Kidding?’

(*Almost missed this. Walden Bello sent this “response to a good friend’s justification of her support for Roxas in the 2016 elections.” He says “Omega” is a pseudonym of an organization they both belong to. Everything that follows is by Mr. Bello, the former Representative of party-list Akbayan. He resigned in late March of this year “owing to President Aquino’s double standards in good governance and refusal to accept command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy, Bello was a member of the House of Representatives.”)

You talk about your disillusionment with “Grand Narratives” or big designs for social change, and it is within that disappointment that you locate your support for Mar Roxas in his candidacy for the presidency. You speak about being satisfied if he were to be responsive to a few reform measures, like agrarian reform.

I also do not subscribe to some Grand Narrative, whatever one may call it. But I do think we need a vision, a just society, a caring society; otherwise, as Proverbs 29:18 says, “the people perish.” And we do need a progressive program to bring reality closer to that vision. I am speaking about a transformative process that may be incremental at certain times, revolutionary during more congenial times. Pragmatic we must be, but not empiricist or relativist.

Good governance is certainly a key part of that program; social justice and gender justice are other parts of it. I certainly agree that under Aquino, we had advances in gender justice, notably the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, but not in social justice, as you yourself acknowledge, owing to the signal failure to complete the agrarian reform program. And when it comes to good governance, which was the central reason we in Omega joined the reform coalition in 2010, Aquino subverted it with his double standards, fraternity style of governance, and defiant refusal to acknowledge command responsibility for the Mamasapano tragedy (in my view, for fear of being hauled to court after his term).

Mar-Roxas-LPWhen Omega people say, we must support Roxas to continue the reform program, I ask what reform program? In Spanish, they would say esta agotado, that is, the reformist potential of the administration is exhausted.

On Roxas himself, this is not 2010. He now bears the burden of his record during the last five years–a yes-man on Mamasapano, a failure as DILG chief, an even greater failure as DOTC head, non-supportive on agrarian reform, a neoliberal in economic policy, a man without substance, a klutz when it comes to management, as shown especially by the mess in Yolanda rehabilitation.

We have to have something more than someone who is not personally corrupt, or shall we say one with the class privileges to afford not to be personally corrupt. We had that with Aquino, and look where it got us.

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay

We have to have something more than his being the lesser evil, which I no longer feel is a good basis for choice.

Besides, what good has the Roxas dynasty ever done for the country? His father Gerry was a mediocre leader who compromised with Marcos until very late in the game. His grandfather was a hated collaborator who supervised the draconian rice procurement from peasants for the Japanese army and was only saved from hanging after liberation by the intervention of Douglas MacArthur. Why bring this in, you ask? Well, if we in Omega are espousing the elimination of dynastic politics, they are certainly very relevant considerations.

This man will not break with his class on the key issues, certainly not on the key issue you would premise your support on: agrarian reform. Indeed, he evinces not solidarity for the poor but solidarity with his class. No less than the top representative of the sugar barons, Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines, said the sugar industry was “thankful” to Roxas for successfully lobbying President Aquino to grant the industry’s request to exempt raw sugar from advance value-added tax, a major source of national revenue. That’s classic class cronyism.

Seriously, would you entrust the country and the fortunes of Omega to this fellow for the next six years?

Senator Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe

Again, let me say, our current choices–Binay, Poe, Roxas–are all terrible. Rather than go for the proverbial lesser evil, I think our responsibility to the country is to denounce and campaign against the elite politics that foists such terrible choices on our people, educate them on the necessity of an alternative to bankrupt class politics, and mobilize them so that whichever ruling class joker wins in 2016, he or she will not be able to rule in the same old way, as the wise old codger said.

Pandering to the INC (UPDATED)

You think Grace Poe, Chiz Escudero and Jojo Binay are the only ones rushing to mollify the powerful Iglesia ni Christo? Think again.

There’s been an amazing display of “Selective Justice” all around. From Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, all the way up to Malacanang.

Yes. Grace Poe was dead wrong. As was Francis Chiz Escudero​ And Binay … But they are not alone.

Everyone is tiptoeing around the INC. And we know why. a) Because deals matter b) Because you’re scared of people who know where your skeletons are c) Because you’ve knelt too long before the doors of power.

Check out the quotes from all quarters as gathered by TV5 broadcaster Jove Francisco.


READ INC: From rag-tag sect to influential wheeler-dealer?

READ Faith, politics, Iglesia inglorious

The INC is like the Ampatuan clan, only more powerful because its tentacles extend nationwide. Like the Ampatuans, the INC accepts homage from all political parties. How many untouchables under the Aquino administration? How many surprising cringe-worthy appointments that shoved aside the meritorious? The strings will probably reach all the way back to Commonwealth Ave.

Don’t forget: The INC endorsed the Aquino-Roxas tandem in 2010. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20100505-268197/Iglesia-ni-Cristo-endorses-Aquino-Roxas-tandem

Let’s get this straight. Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) members have a right to protest. They have the right to voice out their grievances. If they want to mobilize a million people, they’re welcome to that.

But numbers do not make them right. Nor should these numbers – and the prospects for votes in 2016 – scramble the brains of politicians who ought to know better. (Though it may be too much to rely on their brains on the issue of INC, since we do know that most of them grovel at the doors of that white building on Commonwealth hoping for the easy blessing of a bloc vote.)

The INC is wrong to frame its protest as a matter of defending religious beliefs.

While I’m not impressed by the dissenters – who have yet to come out and expose their Church’s involvement in systemic corruption – they have raised serious allegations of abduction and grave threats to their families. There have been news reports of a Bicolano INC minister disappearing and then reappearing in a Cavite jail.

I am not judging the INC leaders. They are entitled to a legal defense. But neither they nor their followers are entitled to command a halt to legal processes on criminal charges. And a process that hasn’t even moved that much — as opposed to, say, warrantless arrests against activists in Bukidnon.

Demanding that government ignore a legitimate plaint for justice is exactly what INC members are asking as they mass on Padre Faura.

Vice President Jejomar Binay has said a lot in defense of the INC. He makes the INC sound like some poor, down-trodden heroine in a soap opera.

The truth is, the government isn’t oppressing the INC leadership. Hell, the government pussy-footed for sometime even as desperate calls for help were being raised by the dissenters. Had it not been for a very noisy public would they have even bothered to investigate those cases? The case is at the preliminary investigation stage.


I even have a suspicion — since officials backed by the INC are being promoted across the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — that nothing much but posturing is happening. I have no illusions either about Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Her record is sterling in its mendacity.

So, what’s the fuss all about?

An internal leadership squabble is nobody’s business. But the tactics used in the struggle – including abduction and holding entire families hostage – is our business. We cannot shrug these off just because it’s an INC matter. Just as we shouldn’t shrug off serious human rights violations because the victims are militants and suspected communists.

(On the other hand, to jump on these cases simply because the villains are INC – and thus, not of our faith – isn’t the right attitude. And many of the comments on social media reflect religious bigotry rather than an actual concern for justice.)

Not that I’d give serious thought to what Binay says. But the younger Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe truly disappoint with their knee jerk reactions to the INC controversy.

I like Grace – probably more than any presidentiable. But in this she is wrong. Dead wrong.

Since when has belief that Mamasapano is important been an excuse to ignore other important cases?

That is a line of reasoning exactly like the one used by Malacanang to justify the sloooooow pace of investigation into the pork cases.

Grace, you should know that in this country “priorities” are always used as an excuse to let friends go scot-free. Review the Freedom of Information bill and its fate under President Benigno Aquino III. You should know better than to fall for that trite and self-serving argument.

INC5555Hammer on the need to file charges against those involved in Mamasapano. Go, we’ll back you on that. (And while you’re at it, why don’t you say something about the plight of lumads being hunted down on Mindanao’s mountains or the fact that their children are systematically being deprived of the right to education.)

But do not sweep aside serious charges of rights violations against the INC leadership. This has nothing to do with religion – unless you want us to believe oppression is acceptable when packaged as part of religious belief.

That was disappointing. Hoping you change your mind.

Bashing Grace Poe

It’s slash-and-burn time. Filing for candidacy doesn’t happen until October, but politicians and their supporters are now busy prettifying their images or attacking perceived rivals.

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay was the original target-in-chief. The presumed front-runner’ ratings took a tumble in the latest surveys, though one can’t dismiss him yet as a contender. Senator Grace Poe’s leap in ratings has now made her the target of both Binay’s UNA and the ruling Liberal Party of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. President Benigno Aquino III is, of course, considered the head of the LP, the king whose blessing is needed by the heir designate.

Senator Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe

UNA obviously thought attacking Poe on the issue of citizenship would scare off would be supporters and voters. They didn’t realize that highlighting her foundling status would just kindle sympathy in this soap-opera crazy nation. They gifted Poe with a script any director would kill for — and it actually had real hacenderas-fallen-from-grace, poor-boy-rich-girl passion, pious-nurturers, not to mention a childless superstar couple. Small wonder the Binay family practically begged Toby Tiangco to shut his trap.

The LP and their backers could have made better play of the residency issue. Poe IS vulnerable there. But that is an issue that only the courts can rule on with finality. Mar-Roxas-LPThere is also the inconvenient fact that, while Mar’s friends used the issue to question Poe’s legitimacy as presidential candidate, the President was busy wooing the senator on behalf of… … and there’s the rub. What exactly is PNOY doing? And why aren’t the Mar lovers taking him to task for his cavalier treatment of the presumed heir? (Not that it’s the first time for the President to treat Roxas like some peon; think, Mamasapano.)

The current theme:

  • You are not worthy, Grace, if you do not drop Chiz Escudero as running mate.
  • Drop Chiz because he won’t get anywhere without you.
  • Chiz will betray you, the way he betrayed Mar, with the NoyBi gambit.
  • Chiz is trapo and so choosing him means you’re trapo, too.

Escudero can be too slick for his own good. He can sound cocky and arrogant. (Miriam Santiago famously took him down a couple of notches not-too-long-ago.) He is a pragmatist, sometimes to a fault, leaving you wondering if he will ever make categorical statements of principles. He can be slippery that way.

Sen. Chiz Escudero
Sen. Chiz Escudero

There’s also something a bit cold about Chiz. It’s hard not to look at him without imagining an inner abacus going click, click, click weighing his interests.

Some people, like me, feel discomfort over that. Some people think it’s an important leadership skill.

Sure, maybe Chiz knows he won’t win the Presidency, which is why he’s willing to take the runner-up post. But what is wrong with having a good sense of reality?

We are left with the NoyBi plaint, a laughable, pathetic argument. NoyBi was real. Early in the 2010 race, journalists were already writing of a parallel organization. (I did.)

If Mar and his pals didn’t get wind of that, that’s a question on their ability to lead. That they got wind of that and didn’t do anything — or didn’t do enough — to counter the dangerous internal challenge, places an even bigger question mark on their capability.

Why confront Grace or Chiz with the issue? Six years after, why is Mr. Aquino still doing the shuffle?

And why isn’t anyone challenging his actions? Poor, Mar, imagine the President asking Grace is she’d be willing to have his LP pal as a spare tire in national rounds. Asking Grace. Think about that.

This is your sainted leader, dudes. Why is he showing Mar so much disrespect? Those who scream over — and at — Chiz are skirting the elephant in the room. NoyBi would never have prospered without the blessings of Noy.

Noy, the candidate, was conscious of the double-dealing. It benefited him after all. Certainly, his beloved sisters were part of that clique — and made their preference clear even years into the Aquino presidency.

I won’t argue that there’s a streak of a cynic in Chiz. But why are all these bashers blind to the cynicism in PNOY, now and in 2010? Check how all the NoyBi people have stood the test of six years. Who did he choose as Executive Secretary? The biggest NoyBi of them all — Jojo Ochoa.

The President can anoint Mar — and he probably will. It doesn’t really matter. Mr. Aquino showed in 2010 he’s very capable of looking out for No. 1. With his protection gone after 2016, that’s exactly what he’ll try to do.

All the President's friends.
All the President’s friends.

The real equation is this: Mar or Grace or Binay, the real winner is Noynoy. Chiz may not be Mar’s friend. But he sure is a dear friend of PNOY.

There are a thousand things why it’s perfect reasonable for people not to like Chiz. NoyBi isn’t one of them — unless you want to throw paint at your president, too.

Oh, and one more thing. While it is legitimate to wonder about Grace’s lack of experience — you campaigned in 2010 for a legislator who had done NOTHING in his long congressional stint.