Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Assumptions are Not True

Many people assume that my running for congressman this coming May 2010 is a result of a life-long calculated plan of my dad--the ever consummate politician. After all, that's what politicians do to perpetuate themselves, right?

And many believe that my dad is responsible for me taking up law, running for USC chairman, running for provincial board member and eventually running for congress in 2010 to take over after he reaches the mandatory 3-term limit.

Fair assumptions, but not true.

First, the law degree. My dad never told me to become a lawyer. Proof is that of the 9 brothers and sisters, ako lang ang nag-tapos nang pagka-abogasya. Dad didn't force any of us to study law.

I chose to study law. It was my decision. Sure, I was influenced by the fact that my grandfather and father were both lawyers. But the truth is, I never saw either of them practice law. What really made me take the UP Law Aptitude Examination (LAE) was the hunger to know and understand the law. While taking up some Philosophy subjects in Ateneo, I realized that our lives are greatly governed by laws. In every aspect of society, be it family life, business, environment, health, there are rules and regulations. If a person did not know the law, he would either be left behind or taken advantaged of. The only way to survive, is to learn the law. I wanted to study law so that I could teach others about it--so that I could empower them.

The movie "My Cousin Vinny" also influenced me. Others would have been inspired by "A Few Good Men" or "The Firm." Not me. It was "My Cousin Vinny" starring Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini. Sobrang babaw ng rason ko. If Vinny could be a lawyer, I could to. Unknown to many, but that movie made me survive law school. : )

Second, the USC Chairmanship. Dad never talked to me about it. In fact, when I told him I was interested in running, he didn't support me at first. Ayaw niya ako tumakbo. Only after his fraternity brods talked to him that he gave me some money for posters.

Third, running for bokal. After taking the bar, I knew I wanted to be a public servant. 'Di kami nag-usap ni Dad pero alam ko gusto kong pagsilbihan ang bayan. I didn't want to practice corporate or tax law. And I didn't want to litigate. But just to be sure that public service was my calling, I tried them both first.

I worked as a corporate attorney in Makati. The pay was okay, my boss was nice and my officemates were friendly. But after a year I felt like throwing up every time I went to work. Literally, nasusuka ako sa ginagawa ako, hindi ko alam kung bakit. It wasn't for me.

Then I tried litigation by working for the Office of the Solicitor General. I was serving the public by representing the government in its court cases. My boss was kind and my officemates were helpful. So dapat okay. Pero hindi. I was miserable. It took me such a long time to draft my pleadings. Sabi ng iba sanayan lang yan, pero hindi eh. Whenever I was in my cubicle I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I'd always have to go out for fresh air. I couldn't wait to get out. Buti na lang during that time, I was assigned by my boss to the OSG Bill Task Force. Since my dad's a congressman, SolGen (now Justice) Nachura tapped me to help lobby for the passage of the OSG law. This assignment allowed me to visit my old officemates in Congress and friends in the Senate. Kilala ko mga committee secretaries and legislative officers dun that we were able to calendar the bill and prioritize it in the floor and have it passed in a matter of months. Nag-enjoy ako sa ginawa ko. Nabuhayan ako.

This was a turning point in my life. It was through this time period that I realized I was really not cut out for the regular practice of law or litigation. And I also realized that I enjoyed lobbying and legislating.

Only then did I approach my dad about running for public office. Prior to this Dad never talked to me about politics.

And the only time my dad had anything to do with my decision to run was when we discussed what position I would be gunning for in 2007. The options were City Councilor, City Vice-Mayor or Provincial Board Member. I chose the latter. And I'm glad Dad supported me in my decision.

The rest, my friends, as you know, is history. : )

Lastly, my run for congress. Yes, my dad is a third-term congressman. Yes, that means he's graduating. Yes, I am the perfect and expected replacement. And it's safe to assume that I am running because of those reasons. But I'm not running for those reasons.

I run because I want to.

I run because I believe that local government units, particularly the provinces, must be given more powers to govern themselves. And the only way to make sure that the Local Government Code is amended to achieve such goal is for me to run for congressman.

I run because I believe that the constitution must be reviewed and overhauled after 23 years of being untouched. I have so many proposed changes and improvements for our constitution and the only way to get them there is for me to propose them myself in Congress.

I run because I want to review and possibly revise the Sangguniang Kabataan Law to make it more relevant to the youth. I run because I want to decentralize the Department of Education by giving more power and autonomy to the Local School Boards. I run because I want Congress to grow some balls and pass a comprehensive reproductive health care program. I run because I want to lower income taxes. I run because I want to create small claims courts and special traffic courts around the country.

I run because I want to shape national policies and be a part of a new administration that would do whatever it takes for the country to get out of this rut and shrug off the image of being the basket case of Asia.

So, I hope that's clear. : )

I am running for Representative of the 1st District of the Province of Ilocos Norte, not for anything else, but to serve my country and make a difference.


By ROLAND R. AGRA, President of the Supreme Student Council, NCC

06 March 2010, launching of Kabataan Kaisa ni Kris
Provincial Capitol Auditorium, Laoag City

Before I start may I greet every one a good afternoon. May I also congratulate Atty. And Mrs. Kris Ablan for their first child, Baby Alicia Beatriz. I hope she’ll have a baby brother in two-three years time.

I was heading home from my 6 PM class, when I received a text message from RB Ablan. He was requesting me to make an anecdote about Sir Kris, which will I deliver afterwards. I was hesitant at first because I have many paper works to do. However, I came to realize that I have a moral responsibility to share to you how this good-looking and debonair public servant affected my views on leadership and public service.

I first saw Atty. Kris three years ago. My landlady gave me a polyetos. When I saw that polyetos, the first question I asked myself was, “How is he related to the Ablans?” Later, I found out that he is a son of Rep. Roque R. Ablan. Atty. Kris won a seat in the Provincial Board during the 2007 midterm elections.

Come July 2009, when I won as the president of the Supreme Student Council, we were given the chance to sponsor our first leadership seminar. During our meeting, an officer raised a motion on whom to select as lecturers and speakers. I rose from my seat and nominated Board Member Kris Ablan. After that, Atty. Kris was selected as one of our four lecturer-speakers. Some fellow officers insisted on choosing the SK Federated President. They reasoned out, “He is a member of the youth like us”. I said, “He was once the chairman of the University of the Philippines Student Council. That’s heavier than your argument.”

When he came, I was uncomfortable not only because I would introduce him that afternoon, but I was disturbed by how he approached my fellow student leaders. He was very warm and friendly. No signs of pakitang-tao or plastikan. I admired how he delivered his lecture. He was not boring. He was able to relate himself with his listeners. From then on, I imitated how he delivers his speeches; not boring, confident, full of energy.

Tumatak sa isipan ko na si Sir Kris isang mabuting halimbawa lalo na sa kabataan. After the leadership seminar, we invited him to be our guest of honor and speaker sometime in October and again last January as the main lecturer of the voters’ education forum.

I consider myself privileged not only because I had met him many times but I always learn something from him every time we had an opportunity to be together. He is an idealist, just like me. He believes that we can achieve real and substantial change if we are disciplined and law-abiding citizens. No contentions about that. I agree with him that what are important are the principles and ideologies you are fighting for and not the personalities you are with every day.

Don’t dare accuse him as a trapo or else tamayen kayo. His track record in the Provincial Board is a manifestation of his dedicated performance, unquestionable competence, and unwavering love for the Ilocano people.

May I be allowed to recite some portions of the famous; I AM FILIPINO poem of Atty. Alex L. Lacson, a product of the Harvard Law School, who visited NCC last February 26. I made slight modifications to suit today’s affair.

Kris Ablan is a Filipino. Who is he today is because of the role God wants him to play. He is born to succeed. God has equipped him, within him and around him. With all the essentials he needs to succeed in this world…He is destined to be great…for God truly wants him to add more beauty and greatest to our world.

Kris Ablan was born of freedom…as such, he dedicates that freedom to ensure that the people shall remain free…he shall use his freedom to help other people…he was born of love, out of God’s immeasurable love…it is what He wants him to bring into this world, so love shall be who he is.

Kris Ablan is a part of the whole, as part of the answer to the question, as part of the solution to the problem, as part of the hope of our people…and soon…he shall build a more beautiful and better community not only for his family but most especially for the Ilocano people.

That is Atty. Michel Kristian Riego Ablan. He is KNOWLEDGEABLE. He is RESPONSIBLE. He is an IDEALIST/INTELLIGENT. He is a SELFLESS public servant. That makes him a brilliant future congressman: mapagpiaran, napudno, ken naayat nga agserbi itit kaaduan.

Friday, March 05, 2010

An article on the Congressional Forum in DWCL

Eloquent Rudy, idealistic Kris, and Confused Atong

by: Herdy Yumul

I WANTED Teteng Sales to be in the forum sponsored by student journalists of the Divine Word College of Laoag last Feb. 24. The former Pagudpud mayor, who claims he won the congressional race in 2007 over incumbent Roque Ablan Jr., intrigues me. I know so little about his position on issues, and I wanted to validate the general impression that he is an intellectual lightweight.

Apparently, however, he ignored the invitation to the event, the first congressional forum to happen in the province after the filing of certificates of candidacy. According to organizers, Teteng’s camp received the letter of invitation, and no less than his wife Maja was informed of the undertaking, but that they never sent a word, which is worse than begging off.

Former Sarrat Mayor Chito Ruiz was also unable to attend as he was in Manila, but his staff took time to convey the candidate’s regrets.

There was another congressional forum that was supposed to transpire last Feb. 26, the Anti-Kadiri Movement’s Congressional Hour. It was postponed, however, because Gibo’s visit to the province on that day made some personalities unavailable. Leaders of this anti-trapo movement say Teteng has also been ignored them.

This is sad, dear karikna, because candidates owe it to us, the voting public, to explain their stands on matters of public concern. Teteng’s popularity in the past was mainly due to the people’s tiredness of the old Ablan, a traditional politician who has been a fixture in the local political scene for decades. I say this will no longer be enough political capital for Teteng as he now faces four other candidates: Ruiz, Former Congressman/Governor Rudy Fariñas, Board Member Atong Peralta, and Ablan’s son Kris.

Rudy Fariñas was in his usual element. He was eloquent and sharp, an observation shared by Prof. Fides Bitanga, forum moderator.Some people perceive the 1978 bar topnotcher as arrogant and aggressive, but I did not see those qualities in him that afternoon. What I saw was a person who was simply raring to serve again. While he did not actually say these words, the message I got from him was: I am qualified, I have served you well before, and I am most willing to serve you again.

Kris Ablan was refreshing. He was somehow successful at conveying the message that he is different from his father, although he also occasionally justified, even took pride in, his old man’s actions. Nonetheless, there was sincerity in his voice.

What I wanted about both Kris and Rudy was their very clear positions on issues. Invited as a panelist, your karikna asked them about the Reproductive Health Bill. Kris said we really need one. Rudy said he is against it because he is Catholic, and that he considers the proposed legislation as “anti-life”. Then spoke Atong who said that it is an issue so complicated and controversial that he would rather not give a position.

I also asked them of their individual views on the Sangguniang Kabataan’s abolition pushed by some quarters because, 1) SK officials have become puppets of traditional politicians and political dynasties, 2) SK has become a breeding ground not of leadership, but of corruption and ineptitude; and 3) Because their projects are superficial, e.g. Search for Ms. SK, construction of basketball courts, and the like.

Rudy, father of the SK Federation presidents of Laoag City and of Ilocos Norte, said he is against its abolition, and went on to argue against contentions 1 and 3. Kris said he is also against abolition, but that he will propose reforms to the SK system.

You guessed it! Atong found the issue to difficult to handle so he did not make a stand. How confused can he get? Confused or compromised? Or afraid? I have never doubted the brilliance of this veteran politician, and that is why it was so disappointing when he chose gray when the lines between black and white were so clear.

Remember what Dante, the greatest Italian poet said about indecision? “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those people who, in time of crisis, remain neutral.”

But let’s give credit to Atong, at least he came, unlike two of his opponents. And he could do better in gatherings of similar nature soon. There are two congressional forums that we anticipate in March. The Kadiri Movement’s and the Laoag City Hall Press Corps’.

Your karikna (extreme left) together with other forum panelists


Straw voting was done before and after the event to determine how much the forum has changed voters’ preferences. Over 200 students from various universities in the province cast their ballots.

According to Jaime Lao, editor in chief of DWCL’s The Williamite, the entrance poll yielded the following results, in percentage: Ablan, 34.6; Fariñas, 26.7; Ruiz, 5.8; Sales, 5.3; Peralta, 1.6; and 26, undecided.

After the forum, the undecided fell to only 5 percent. Ablan’s figures rose to 60.3 percent while Fariñas’ had a slight decline at 25.2 percent. Ruiz and Peralta maintained their single digit figures but Sales’ votes votes plunged from 5.3 percent at the entrance poll to less than one half percent (.047%) after the forum.

It is safe to infer that most of the undecided voters, after listening to the candidates, decided to choose Kris, the youngest among the contenders.

The thirty-two year old lawyer and former UP Diliman Student council president radiated youthful idealism when he said that a congressman’s primary interest must be legislation and not the pork barrel fund. Fariñas was more pragmatic. He said that a congressman has two jobs: to legislate and to gather funds for his district, because local official come to them for help. Kris, in an interview I made with him before, categorically said that he is, by principle, against the concept of pork barrel fund, but will accept his district’s share if it is appropriated. In an article he posted at his Facebook account which is open to the public, he categorically labeled his dad, who finds no fault in the pork barrel fund largely perceived as fountain of corruption, as “traditional politician.”

The forum confirmed what everyone knew all along. The youth sector is Kris’ bailiwick. It was all worthwhile then that, for the forum’s sake, he postponed an important trip to Manila where his wife Ria gave birth to firstborn Alicia Beatriz.


Published in Ilocos Times dated February 22-28, 2010