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It seems the political in the Philippines is getting worst. It is turning out to be a battle of political ads and scratching backs instead of a battle of platform and principles.

The recent political ad infomercial of Noynoy Aquino, "Hindi Ka Nag-iisa" was so far the best ad showcased by candidates in terms of quality and shock and awe but not in terms of substance, relevance and platform.

Another article was recently published via Facebook courtesy of Pocholo Gonzales which discusses about the redistricting of Malolos City in Bulacan and Camarines both involving Aquino but each he took a different stance.

Here is the article entitled, "Hypocrisy and hissy fits by Jojo Robles".

When survey leader Senator Noynoy Aquino went to the Supreme Court recently to oppose the creation of a new congressional district in Camarines Sur, some people in the province of Bulacan couldn’t believe their ears. Was this the same Noynoy Aquino, they asked, who orchestrated the carving out of the new congressional district of Malolos, despite the same legal infirmities he now accuses the proponents of the Camarines initiative of having?

It’s true. Aquino, as chairman of the Senate committee on local government, worked for that chamber’s move to create a new, separate district out of the Bulacan capital only last February. And he did it for his current running mate, Senator Mar Roxas, who sponsored the new district’s creation despite protests from key sectors in the province that Malolos didn’t have the constitutionally required population level to merit having its own congressman.

And wasn’t Senate Resolution 1986 (the number is merely coincidental) creating the Malolos district only passed by that chamber after Aquino threatened to resign as committee chairman because Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile wanted the redistricting plan put on hold on the basis of questions regarding its constitutionality raised by Senator Joker Arroyo? And didn’t Roxas, the Bulacan gerrymandering plot’s true proponent, back the measure as a favor to an old Ateneo classmate, for the benefit of local political clans that would stand to gain from the creation of a new district—political clans that would be expected to repay Roxas (and now, Aquino) with votes next May?

Here’s a recounting of events that started in the House last year and which were consummated in the Senate early this year, a period of time that Aquino—in his new incarnation as the fiercest opponent of gerrymandering—may now want to forget. Early in 2008, the move to amend the Malolos City charter (also known as Republic Act 8754) was first proposed by the current Bulacan first district congressman, Rep. Victoria Sy-Alvarado, whose husband is widely reported in the province as a candidate for governor in 2010.

The initiative to create the lone district of Malolos, known as House Bill 3693, was approved by the House committee on local governments headed by Negros Oriental Rep. George Arnaiz upon Alvarado’s lobbying on Feb. 18, 2008 and elevated to the Senate on May 6 last year. The House version, upon which Roxas’ Senate Bill 1986 was entirely based, did not include a certification from the National Statistics Office certifying that Malolos met the population requirement of the Constitution for the creation of a new congressional district.

In his sponsorship of the Senate version, Roxas reportedly declared that Malolos has a population of 255,000, a figure not backed up by any official census records. Instead, in two memoranda to the Senate, Malolos-based lawyers Victorino Aldaba and Carlo Jolette Fajardo told the Senate that the NSO has certified that the capital city had a population of 223,069 as of 2007, when the last national census was conducted, and that by 2010, the same agency projects that Malolos will have a population of 247,321, based on the current annual population growth rate of 3.5 percent.

Those opposing the redistricting said the creation of a new district is part of a plan hatched by the two top Malolos executives —longtime Mayor Danny Domingo and Vice Mayor Al Tengco—to stay in office after 2010, when both of their terms expire. According to the plan, Domingo will run as congressman of the new Malolos district, while Tengco will be his candidate for mayor. After a three-year term, in 2013, both officials will switch places and everybody —including Sy-Alvarado who is supposed to stay as congressman of the remainder of the first district, and her husband, who would supposedly have become governor —will be happy.

After both the amendment to the Malolos charter and the redistricting plan breezed through the House, Tengco asked his old Ateneo classmate, Roxas, to sponsor the bill and shepherd it to approval in the Senate, with the help of Mar’s chum Aquino, the committee chairman. Neither senator, nor any of the others who eventually voted to approve the redistricting plan by the last week of February, seriously considered the lawyers’ objections to the proposal or even the reservations raised by Enrile and Arroyo—who had earlier filed the bill creating a fifth district in his province of Camarines Sur.

Indeed, Aquino, Roxas and the other senators who approved the Bulacan redistricting apparently didn’t even consider that a recent Supreme Court ruling had nullified Congress’ creation of several chartered cities because these initiatives failed to meet the population requirement stipulated by the Local Government Code. And the creation of the new Bulacan district had been justified in the House—and later in the Senate—using the amendment of the Malolos charter, in clear defiance of the Code’s population stipulation.

Now, in his opposition to the redistricting of Camarines Sur, Aquino is using the same provision of the 1987 Constitution, specifically Section 5 (1), which states that a new seat in the House of Representatives can only be created if a locality has more than 250,000 residents. This was the same constitutional provision cited by the two Bulacan lawyers in their memoranda to all the senators last Nov. 11 and Nov. 22—which neither Roxas (the Malolos redistricting sponsor) nor Aquino (as committee chairman and nominal author of all redistricting bills) replied to.

The Bulacan redistricting measure has been signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo. But it’s ironic—given Noynoy’s latest posturings as a born-again anti-gerrymandering advocate—that the Roxas-Aquino measure is now being questioned before the Supreme Court.

As my neighbor on the next page, Manong Emil, loves to say, what’s sauce for Bulacan should be sauce for Camarines Sur. Except that in this case, that would really depend on who stands to benefit.

* * *

It was Manny Villar who may have started it, after he apparently hit a raw nerve and provoked a barrage of testy remarks from survey frontrunner and chief presidential rival (for now, anyway) Noynoy Aquino. Here’s what Villar said last week, during a dinner in his honor held by the Manila Overseas Press Club, in reply to a question during an open forum regarding his own weaknesses: “I’m not perfect. [But] what I am just saying here is for all of my inadequacies [and] inefficiencies... when you look at me, you are looking at Manny Villar. What you see is what you get. You’re not looking at my mother, my father or the tycoon behind me. You are looking at Manny Villar.”

That was enough, apparently, for Aquino to throw a hissy fit when asked for a reaction during All Saints’ Day, as Ninoy and Cory’s accomplishment-challenged son was visiting his parents’ grave. “It’s true that he won both the Senate presidency and the speakership, but why did he keep losing them? Why can’t he get a running mate? Has he shown any portion of his platform despite the fact that he has been running for quite some time? He’s with the opposition... but as someone pointed out, when was the last time he criticized the present administration?” Aquino said.

Perhaps Aquino has gotten tired of being accused of mining his parents’ political legacy for his own benefit. Or of having so little to show for himself after three terms in the House and one in the Senate. Or both.

Why Aquino decided to publicly (and for the first time, apparently) diss his main rival is unimportant. What is telling is that Noynoy may have finally begun the process of presidential candidates directly engaging their rivals in a war of words, instead of them just making supposedly general, self-promoting statements while casting aspersions on their prospective opponents as asides, just like Villar did during the media forum last week.

Once started, this process of public tit-for-tat between candidates—whether conducted through the media or on the campaign trail, directly or through various spokesmen or subordinates—can’t be reversed. If anything, this sort of negative campaigning will just get shriller by the day, as we hurtle helter-skelter towards election day in May.

For voters, the challenge is to be able to discern fact from fiction and reality from cleverly dressed-up attack propaganda. The dirt will soon start flying in earnest, but not all of it will be grounded in the truth; indeed, in a contest as hotly-contested as this one is expected to be, the truth may once again become the first casualty.

And sometimes, it’s also important to examine not just the accusations themselves but the reactions of those accused, as well. And Noynoy’s heated reaction to Villar’s snide comments about the Aquino heir’s preparations and competence may have actually been as significant as his reply itself.

Unfortunately for Aquino, questions about his track record—or the lack of it, actually—will not go away anytime soon. And now that his rivals can see that this is really an issue that Noynoy is truly sensitive about, it’s reasonable to expect them to go to town with it, if only to get his goat.

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