Here comes the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School

House of Representatives

RA 10965

Expected to open next year in Laoag City, particularly in Brgy. Vira—a hilly village where large Fariñas estates are located—is the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School.  President Rodrigo in December signed Republic Act No. 10965, the law mandating its creation.

People had mixed feelings about this news. While the creation of a new, modern, well-funded science high school in Ilocos Norte is a welcome development, not a few are baffled with its name.

The most vocal critic is Board Member Vicentito Lazo who repeatedly pointed out in the sessions of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that “a street, plaza, or government building could be named after a person only after 10 years after his death except when that person had attained highly exceptional achievements or when the cause of death is due to patriotism or in the service of men.” The new science high school is named after Congressman and Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas’ son JR who perished in a vehicular accident in 2015.

I would not deal with JR’s worthiness for such an honor or whether other great men and women better deserve the distinction, lest I be accused of disrespecting the dead, something I am not inclined to do. The Fariñas family, through the good congressman known for being a devoted father, have all the right to honor their departed loved one by any means allowed by law. And the law creating this science high school is by no means a weak piece of legislation.

After all, it was the Majority Floor Leader together with no less than the Speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez who introduced House Bill No. 5235 entitled, “An Act Establishing a National Science High School in the City of Laoag, Province of Ilocos Norte to be known as Laoag City National Science High School and Appropriating Funds Therefor.” Note here the originally proposed name of the school.

After going through the process in the Lower House, in August last year it was sent to the Senate, requesting for concurrence. After being read on First Reading, it was referred to the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture chaired by Senator Francis Escudero and the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Loren Legarda.

The joint committee recommended the bill’s approval without amendment and was thus presented on December 6 to the plenary for Second Reading through its sponsor, Senator Escudero. It must be noted that on that day, the senator made an omninus  sponsorship speech for 17 bills that seek to establish, separate, convert, and/or rename one elementary school and 16 secondary schools—including the Laoag City National Science High School.

In his explanatory note, Escudero posited that “Laoag City, being the capital of the Province of Ilocos Norte, deserves to have its own science high school to cater the needs of its growing number of elementary school graduates every academic year. The establishment of the Laoag City National Science High School aims to offer courses that focus on the fields of science, technology and mathematics. These courses will enable its students to be equipped with the proper training and adequate education for a science-oriented career. Thus, the Laoag City National Science High School will not only provide free and quality education but will also facilitate better opportunities for the future of the city’s youth.”

Normally, senators are given time to review proposed bills before the period of interpellation, but considering that the 17 bills are of local application and that local legislators, in this case the members of Congress who sponsored the bills, are “better informed and better equipped to make a judgment on these proposed bills,” the senators proceeded with the interpellation.

But no one stood during the interpellation and no amendments were proposed for any of the 17 bills… save for one. Senator Franklin Drilon made a manifestation proposing that the Laoag City National Science High School be named instead as Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School. This proposal was accepted by the Sponsor, and there being no objection, the Body approved the amendment to House Bill No. 5235. It was approved on Second Reading that day, and was subsequently approved on Third (and final) Reading on Dec. 11 through a unanimous vote.

On Dec. 13, HB 5235 was sent to the Office of the President of the Philippines. A few days after, Dec. 19, it was approved and signed into law by President Duterte, and became Republic Act No. 10965.

What I wanted to show here is that the law creating the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School clearly went through the process and had the overwhelming support of the legislature and the Philippine president.

Is it legal? Yes. Unless someone challenges R.A. 10965’s constitutionality in the Supreme Court where it is declared as unconstitutional, it is a law that must be enforced and respected. But will anyone challenge it before the High Court? And who?

I don’t think even Governor Imee Marcos will go at great lengths to challenge this in the Supreme Court. She is now busy in her senatorial run, and this is not the best time to be at loggerheads with Congressman Fariñas. The memories of the 7171 congressional probe are still fresh. In fact, the inquiry has not yet even been fully, finally terminated and thus remains a potent bargaining chip of Congressman Fariñas.

Granting that somebody brave would challenge the wisdom of the Legislature and the Executive Branches of Government and would actually file a case in the Supreme Court, such person would all be but a hopeless martyr, if not a fool, wasting time and resources, and not least because after the Sereno impeachment, who among the justices would wish upon themselves the ire of a major presidential ally such as Congressman Fariñas?

And so we can say now with certainty that the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School, barring any major political upheaval or popular dissent, will open next year. According to news reports, the initial science building will cost at least P110-M and will stand on a three-hectare government lot. Indeed, I have no doubts that Congressman Fariñas–especially because their family name, his beloved son’s name is at stake–will do everything within his vast powers to make it a good one, a great one, one hell of a model science high school in the country. And if this happens, the Ilocano learner will stand to benefit.

But this science high school, having been named the way it was named, will also be a publicly funded monument of a family’s love for a departed member. It will moreover be an unmistakeable proof of something we in this country already know and are doomed to endure for a longer time, perhaps for eternity unless we move towards political maturity: that politicians do things because they could.

Is Imee Marcos running for Senator?

By the looks of it, yes, Imee Marcos is seriously considering a senate run next year, 2019.

The governor, whose third term ends next year, has been going around provinces from Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan to Metro Manila cities, and, as I write this, to Iloilo where the Dinagyang Festival is ongoing.

Imee presses flesh in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija (Photo from the Imee Marcos Facebook page)

Once hesitant to run for a national post (she said she would rather go back to her first loves: filmmaking, graphic animation, and theater), Imee seems to be now considering the growing clamor for her to run for senator. Such clamor, I suspect, is getting stronger as the vice presidential protest of her brother Bongbong is at snail pace. Bongbong can’t run for the senate without jeopardizing his protest, and people want a Marcos in the national scene.

Imee is no stranger to legislative work. Prior to becoming governor, She was representative of the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte for 9 years. As governor, she focused on programs for education and youth empowerment, agriculture, economic development, tourism, and the advancement of clean energy, winning for Ilocos Norte a host of awards.

Whether her clash with Rudy Farinas—House Majority Floor Leader and himself a possible senatoriable—which led to congressional hearings would affect her chances remains to be seen, but judging by the very warm reception she experienced in places she has visited thus far, a senate seat is not beyond her reach.

Congressman Fariñas, non grata

persona

BY A resounding vote of 8, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte in their regular session on June 27 declared Rudy Fariñas as persona non grata. The congressman was expectedly piqued, but he was right to point out in his statement that referring to someone as persona non grata is to say that “he or she is ostracized, and that such a person is for all intents and purposes culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively non-existent.” That exactly is what board members have done to him.

The term “persona non grata” is Latin for “a person not appreciated.” It was originally meant for diplomats and foreigners who have been deemed undesirable or unwelcome, but it is not the first time a Filipino citizen has been declared non grata in his own country.

Ramon Bautista was declared persona non grata by the Davao City Council for his hipon jokes in a party in the city during the celebration of Kadayawan Festival in 2014. Bautista joked that many women in the city are “hipon” which is a derogatory term for a person with a sexually appealing body but with a less attractive face.

Last year, the Sagguniang Panlalawigan of Pangasinan also declared Dr. Dexter Buted, president of the Pangasinan State University (PSU) as persona non grata after he snubbed the board’s three invitations to him and other university officials to appear before an inquiry.

But this indeed could be the first time a sitting congressman is declared persona non grata in his own province. What are its implications? Continue reading “Congressman Fariñas, non grata”

As Rudy as it could get

I received a text message from someone thanking me for an article I wrote the other week.  It read, “Herdy, my son showed me your post, ‘Senator Fariñas.’ I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much! All in God’s time!!”

I did not know how to respond to the message. Should I have said, ‘You’re welcome, sir’? But I was only expressing my thoughts, speaking out loud about the best senator today we should have. So I put off sending a reply, and then I got busy with a lot of things, including the opening of classes and the reprinting of The He(a)rd Mentality which is now sold out in bookstores.

But the other day I got a call from a Capitol staff, asking me if they got my number right. The congressman wanted to confirm, I was told. Then I received another call from the politician’s son, checking if I received his dad’s message. Shortly after, the congressman sent another message of thanks, to which I finally decided to reply: “My pleasure, sir. Will you kindly inform us when your schedule is not so tight so we local writers and bloggers can host dinner for you soon?” It was three in the afternoon. He replied right away, inviting us for dinner that very night, and insisting that he hosts it. He said he’d invite our colleagues from radio as well, lest he be “accused of favoritism.”

So we found ourselves at the Golden Cow Restaurant in Laoag (original location was at their house in Brgy. Barit, but there was a paint job going on) for a night of spirited storytelling and sharing of insights by arguably one of the most revered politicians in the country today: Congressman Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas, he of the Corona impeachment fame.

Apparently, it was the first time Fariñas was talking to the local media regarding his experience in the successful removal of the chief justice from office. There were, dear karikna a lot of amusing “off the record” tidbits I could not share with you, but based on them, I could surmise the following: Continue reading “As Rudy as it could get”

Fantastic Rudy

photo from newsbreak.ph

 

NEVER HAVE I been a fan of Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas. I had always known he is brilliant, but the arrogance attached to his person turned me off big time. And it did not help that he got embroiled in a wide array of controversies both in the public and private spheres.

In the last elections, his campaign spiel was that he is a changed man.  After one tragedy over the other struck, successively over a decade, the once invincible politician said he had a lot of time to reflect on his life. Nice speech, but I was cynical.  It is, after all, the duty of any good citizen to always take everything a politician says with a healthy dose of disbelief.

When he won convincingly in the congressional race over Kris Ablan, who was highly popular with the younger generations, I decided to employ a wait-and-see attitude on the comeback kid.  “Let’s give the guy a chance,” I thought.

Rudy has not disappointed.  In fact, he has surprised, and so pleasantly.  Watching him in action in the televised impeachment proceedings against Merceditas Guttierez made me feel so proud to be from his district. He was consistently brilliant, witty, visually refreshing, and, oh, so charming.

That he was entrusted the post of Vice Chair of the House  Committee on Justice speaks of how highly regarded he is in the legislature.  An old congressman from the South even referred to him as a “legal luminary,” and was unabashed in saying that Rudy is someone whom “I love dearly.” It was strange because that congressman fan was standing in an opposing rostrum, and was supposed to interpolate Rudy. Not even the worn-out, wearisome antics of Minority Leader Edcel Lagman could work on Fariñas, who was as eloquent and coherent as a debater could be.

And the adulation for Rudy goes beyond the chambers of congress.  I have talked to a lot of people—from colleagues in the media and political observers to house workers of the congressman, all of them sing in unison:  he is a changed man. And his kids adore him.

I have never been a fan of Rudy Fariñas, but I think I am now, and moreso after reading a story written by Glenda M. Gloria for Newsbreak’s profiles on the members of the 11-person prosecution panel in the Ombudsman’s trial at the Senate. The story is balanced and fair; it neither sugarcoats Rudy’s dark past nor does it romanticize the present , but this to me is a story of the triumph of the human spirit.

Here’s the link.