GMA has laser eyes!

by Leonard Cervantes

This article also appears in BrownScene


In a speech she made today, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) said she is "focused like a laser" on moving the economy forward, not on politics, in the wake of the ouster of her estranged ally, Jose de Venecia Jr. (JDV 2), as House Speaker in the NBN Scandal.

You might be asking yourself a few questions:

1. Why did GMA say "focused like a laser". Man, that's so corny pinoy it bothers me.

2. What's this new NBN scandal again? Again!?!

3. Who is Jose De Venecia Jr. (JDV 2) and why was another person ousted from the government again?

4. Why in the blue hell are there SMA (so many acronyms)?!?!

Especially for 2nd-Gen Filipinos living abroad, navigating around the confusing and complicated world of Philippine politics is almost impossible. Even if you are brave enough to try and read an article from 'back home', you'll probably be overwhelmed by all the names, terms, and system of government (or lack thereof) that so differs from what we have here.

That's probably a good explanation why the majority of us aren't aware of Philippine politics. How can we have an opinion if we don't understand how it works, or how it's supposed to work in the first place? What we need is someone to break it down.

Strap on your seat belt and concentrate really hard -- I'll do my best to make sense of it all...

The current scandal surrounds a guy named Jose De Venecia Jr, who was Speaker of the House. That's sort of like the Speaker of the House in the House of Commons for you Canadians and also in U.S. Congress (remember Newt Gingrich, he was House Speaker). Basically, the job is to speak at the house and this guy, Venecia is the Speaker at Malacanang Palace.

At the same time, the Philippine government starts a new project called the NBN or the National Broadband Network. The idea is to tie all the cities and little villages to the government office via the internet -- so the millions of Filipinos can access services like getting documents or papers done, without having to go all the way to Manila. Nice idea, actually.

Here's where the kicker comes in.

This project was "given" a hefty price tag of US$329 million That's a huge contract for the company that gets to do this project, so of course, there were a lot of bidders. The firm that ended up winning the bid was a Chinese company called ZTE Corporation (another fricken acronym).

Turns out that the man behind the deal with ZTE was none other that Mike Arroyo, GMA's hubby and First Husband. You might recall that he was involved in his own gambling scandal a few years back (he was, of course, acquitted). The President and her hubby negotiating multi-million dollar deals involving the people's money? Shiiiit.

Details on how the contract was negotiated by ZTE Corp. and the Philippines, about the big personalities and shady officials (like Mike Arroyo) who worked on and benefited by it, including the losing companies who claim it was attended by irregularities, bribery, and corruption.

One of the losing bidders was Jose de Venecia III (or JDV 3). Sound familiar? Yep, that's the Speaker of the House's SON. He spoke up and accused the Goverment of overpricing a shady deal with ZTE in which people on both sides received kickbacks and benefits. He also claimed that he was the target of an attempted $10 million bribe to "back off" the deal. JDV 2 went public, prompting GMA to suddenly pull the plug on the deal, fearing public outcry and investigation.

Not too long after that, House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. was mysteriously ousted from office and a new Speaker of the House was installed.

Before the motion was submitted to a vote, De Venecia delivered a speech before the House where he criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and alleged that her government was behind the move to oust him from the Speakership. Shortly after his remarks, de Venecia acknowledged to reporters: “I will join the opposition to denounce corruption in this administration. I will join the battle against corruption.”

So there you have it. That's the latest scandal, broken down as best I can. An even more digest version is this:

- Philippine politicians are also involved in business deals that they profit from, even the President.

- Even the ones accusing the government of being corrupt are also taking profit (JDV's son was also hoping to prosper under the deal and just started bitching when he didn't get it).

- Filipinos are drama queens.

- President Arroyo will probably not be affected by this whole thing, having her cronies vote Venecia out has "taken care of the problem".

- Her eyes are "LIKE LASERS".

- The Philippines is USC (up shit's creek) as far as the state of politics.

Do you find it hard to keep informed on Philippine politics? Why? Do you think its important? Why or why not?<p>