Friday, August 20, 2010

Tagaytay Religious Association's open letter to former President Fidel V. Ramos

Here's my letter to former president Fidel V. Ramos as a public reply to his series of articles on the socio-political and environmental condition of Tagaytay City. Please click here to read online or scroll down.

On Sunday (22 August 2010), the Tagaytay Religious Association will have an assembly to discuss the matter. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Tagaytay Religious Association
(Founded in 1971; in partnership with Tagaytay Ministerial Fellowship
and other Christian Churches in Tagaytay since 2010)

Office Address:
Divine Word Seminary,
SVD Road,
4120 Tagaytay City
Tel no. 046-413125
Fax no. 046-4131251

August 20, 2010

Dear Former President Fidel V. Ramos,


When I read your and Miss Jullie Yap Daza’s articles on Tagaytay City in the Manila Bulletin, I blessed the Lord for, at last, the socio-political and environmental condition of our city was brought into public eye—by no less than two respected figures of our country—a former president, one of the best we ever had; and a well-known journalist and award-winning television talk show host.

Tagaytay indeed is an “incomparable God-given asset” as you said. Even more so because, in this small city, it is home to a hundred religious houses (Catholic) and Christian churches. If it is not for our conscience and Christian calling, we can choose to live comfortably inside the walls of our convents and churches and just close our eyes to what we ourselves also witness as “Tagaytay’s deterioration” and numb our ears to the silent cries and hushed laments of the people around us. But we cannot. The proclamation of the Word of God to which we committed ourselves includes, to quote a document of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), “the condemnation of injustice and of those elements in a society which are against the will of God."

“What are you, religious and Christian churches, doing in Tagaytay?” This is the kind of question that we usually receive from visitors who frequent Tagaytay and observe its “deterioration.” A month before the last elections, the Tagaytay Religious Association (TRA) consisting of 70 Catholic religious houses and the Tagaytay Ministerial Fellowship (TMF) with 26 Christian churches had worked together to host a candidates forum aimed to discuss in a civilized way the condition of our city []. The incumbent mayor who was then running for re-election chose to absent himself from the forum and, in a letter he distributed to each religious house, accused me, its head organizer, of being “an ardent supporter and campaigner of the Opposition in Tagaytay City as early as 2004 [sic] and a constant detractor of the Tolentino Administration even in his church homilies” (please see the attached file for a copy of his letter).

“Sustainable development and continuous good governance,” as you wrote, “are the responsibility of government.” But you have also pointed out that “the leaders of the business sector, the religious, academics, and the marginalized should be encouraged/included as stakeholders in actualizing above goals without fear of being branded as ‘enemies’”. It is so encouraging to ‘hear’ from you that “whenever there are differences in opinion—if people’s interests are met—ordinary Filipinos should speak out freely in the spirit of community-building without fear of reprisals” [emphases mine]

Thank you, FVR!


Fr. Randolf C. Flores, SVD
President of the Tagaytay Religious Association (TRA)
Divine Word Seminary, 4120 Tagaytay City
E-mail address:

Divine Word Seminary -
Tagaytay Candidates Forum

Attached files:
List of members of Tagaytay Religious Association and Tagaytay Ministerial Fellowship
Letter of Mayor Abraham Tolentino

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Legend of FT

Medium Rare
Legend of FT
August 9, 2010, 4:46pm

KUDOS! Hurray! Cheers! Salamat!

Former President FVR has spoken up, asking P’Noy to “do something to reverse Tagaytay’s deterioration.”

As one who grew up loving Tagaytay for its garden-like weather and springtime air, I am outraged that the good people of that once many-splendored place kissed by the mist and beloved of the moon have not expressed their outrage over the promotion of their ex-mayor to MMDA chairman. Was it coincidence that during the nine years that Francis Tolentino was mayor, the city’s charm faded, allowing a honky-tonk to squat across a convent and a Palace in the Sky to be turned into a dump?

According to an urban legend of the time, the First Lady was so incensed when she noticed that the initials FT were emblazoned in metal and other materials everywhere on public property. Angered by the ubiquitous display of one man’s vanity, arrogance and abuse of authority, she summoned the mayor to explain.

“What are your initials doing all over Tagaytay, FT?” she demanded to know.

“Oh,” FT replied, “but those are not my initials.”

“No? So what do they mean?”

FT replied, “Forward, Tagaytay!”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two Tagaytay mayors and their cohorts

Two Tagaytay mayors and their cohorts
By Former President Fidel V. Ramos
Last of Two Parts
Manila Bulletin
August 14, 2010, 8:02pm

The more one delves into the present condition of Tagaytay – our God-given eco-tourism crown jewel – the more is unearthed about its continuing environmental degradation, abuse of peoples’ rights by City Hall, and overall decline – all under the continuous administration of brother-Mayors Francis Tolentino (1995-2004) and Abraham Tolentino (2004 to date).

The above-mentioned observations of eminent journalist Jullie Yap Daza cannot be ignored as these come from one who knows and is deeply concerned about our future. Probably not known, however, to accountable Cabinet members, much less President Benigno Simeon Aquino III himself, is that Tagaytay – the only world-class tourist destination within easy driving distance from Metro Manila and Calabarzon – has deteriorated into an ecological fiasco and center of unbridled dynastism.

The DENR, DILG, DoT, DPWH, DoST and DepEd secretaries, and Chief PNP, among other government agency heads, should now take a good look at Tagaytay – beyond the usual elite tourist spots, classy golf courses, and fine-dining restaurants – and do a quick visit of the public places that common people frequent.

To discover the reality, one should also check out the commercial-educational areas around the Ninoy Aquino rotonda, Picnic Grove, Mahogany Public Market, People’s Park in the Sky (PPIS), garbage dumpsites along the slopes down to Taal Lake, squatter colonies, etc.

Tagaytay 2004 Letter of Undertaking

In January, 2004, the top Tagaytay elected officials – Mayor Francis Tolentino, Vice Mayor Virgilio Ambion (City Council Presiding Officer), and First Councilor (now Mayor) Abraham Tolentino – committed to the people of Tagaytay to undertake and guarantee its sustainable development/enhancement in accordance with United Nations standards.

These undertakings are embodied in their Letter of Undertaking based on various international covenants, Philippine laws (specifically RA 7623 – July 1992, and RA 8425 – June 1998), Executive Orders (EO 84, s–93; EO 296, s–96; and EO 412, s–97), and Presidential Proclamations (PP 740, s-96 and PP 906, s–96). The LOU resulted from dialogues/consultations at that time with civil society leaders, environmentalists, and sectoral representatives.

Anchored on and within these parameters, said LOU committed the City of Tagaytay, being signatory to the “UN Earth Charter” and the “Local Government Declaration at the World Summit on Sustainable Development” in Johannesburg, to:

* Continuously sustain the environment... through sound policies, to pursue economic growth without sacrificing its ecological environment.

* Practice good governance... to reduce poverty in all forms. The “Tagaytay City Action Plan on Poverty Reduction through Good Governance” addresses the economic/social/environmental/political dimensions of poverty, based on the “Minimum Basic Needs Approach” of the “Social Reform Agenda” (RA 8425), and the guidance of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

* Capitalize on its tourism potential... with private sector-led initiatives to ensure growth thru Eco-Tourism. Accordingly, its officials should make sure Tagaytay does not stumble into the pitfall of promoting tourism while, in the process, neglecting its ecological quality and imposing heavy tolls on the environment.

* Strictly adhere to Proclamation No. 740 (s–1996)... to preserve the ecological balance within the one-kilometer-radius area around the People’s Park in the Sky.

Philippine cities, as a whole, have been in the forefront of above refocusing of development strategies. For one, Tagaytay City has numerous partnerships with international organizations intended to spur growth/ progress within the bounds of sustainability. Principal among these are: World Bank’s “Up-Scaling Poverty-Focused City Development Strategies,” “UN Habitat and Cities Alliance,” and UNEP’s Management Systems.

Contrary actions to Promises/Covenants Galore

So far, in spite of such an array of covenants, LOUs, and promises undertaken by two Tolentino administrations, only contrary, self-serving actions have taken place in Tagaytay. All its “City Development” undertakings, which are both processes and products, are supposed to engage its officials and stakeholders in a long-term vision of sustainably clean and attractive habitats/workplaces/destinations.

These are all presumed to maximize the comparative advantages of Tagaytay's future livability, competitiveness, and bankability.

The “Good Urban Governance Campaign,” on the other hand, is designed to operate within the universally accepted norms of good urban governance, namely: Efficiency, Security, Equity, Transparency, Accountability, Civic Engagement, Citizenship, Decentralization, and Subsidiarity.

Under the “Clean Cities Center Project,” where Tagaytay officials promised to focus on hotels, restaurants, and other tourism destinations, key agencies/staff of Tagaytay City were to be trained to apply waste minimization and cleaner pollution prevention techniques – not only among its commercial and religious institutions but within City Hall itself.

Contrariwise, what has happened in the past 12 years was the creeping but steady forcing out of dedicated officials and law-abiding investors – to the political/economic advantage of the ruling family dynasty.

More unfulfilled undertakings

Other promises of the Tolentino administrations which have not been fulfilled are:

* Strengthen the City Development Council... as a vehicle for multi-partnership to strictly implement Land Use and Zoning Ordinances. The CDC helps ensure that poverty reduction programs, projects, and activities are integrated in local development/investment plans.

* Reactivate the Tagaytay City Advisory Council... as civil society multi-sectoral component to the CDC to actualize people’s participation/empowerment thru public service cooperation.

* Improve recycling, composting, and other waste minimization programs... in accordance with existing laws/regulations, to include mandates in UNEP programs and “Clean Cities Waste Minimization Strategies.”

* Recognize the existing water resource policies of the Tagaytay City Water District... to continue existing programs adopted by the TCWD Board, vis-a-vis the need for incumbent TCWD officials to be given sufficient time to implement necessary programs, thereby ensuring continuity/sustainability.

What the record of the unbroken years under two Tolentino brother-mayors reveals is the imposition of a culture of impunity – reminiscent of the PGMA era in the ARMM.

Again, we say: Take a hard look at the track records of these two dynastic families (Tolentino-Ampatuan) and see their similarities/ parallelisms.

Binges of self-aggrandizement; another Maguindanao?

Instead of implementing the glowing promises cited above, the Tagaytay government engaged in binges of self-aggrandizement, denudation of forests and hill slopes to give way to property acquisitions, depletion of water resources, and abusive local governance.

Is Tagaytay (and its environs) destined to become another Maguindanao? Are the Tolentinos the Cavite twins of the Ampatuans?

As a frequent visitor-regular taxpayer of Tagaytay, FVR has this to say:

(1) Paramount above all in the strategic development of the entire Tagaytay-Taal area was, and continues to be, the preservation/ enhancement of its unique environment/eco-system – an incomparable combination of land, sea, and sky that is easily within reach to all of us – Filipinos and foreigners, the youth and elderly, the rich and poor alike.

No similar natural God-given cluster of beautiful landscapes exists on earth – except perhaps Mt. Everest in the Himalayas – which according to our First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition, we know to be inaccessible.

(2) At the very top of the whole breathtaking Tagaytay-Taal area is the ‘People’s Park in the Sky’ from where one can see four large bodies of water and the majestic presence of Mts. Makiling and Banahaw. For ordinary Filipinos who cannot afford an exclusive vantage point like the SM Highlands – particularly provincianos from Mindanao, the Visayas, Bicol region, and Northern Luzon – a visit to PPIS is a memorable once-in-a-lifetime treat.

It is, in one package, a place for enjoyment, reflection, thanksgiving, renewal, bonding, and inhaling fresh air.

(3) Only token adherence has taken place the Letter of Undertaking in the City Government’s public pronouncements, media releases, executive orders, and legislative ordinances/resolutions. Certain actions for public consumption are made for purposes of just paying lip service to these commitments. Such attitudes by Tagaytay’s officials are not acceptable because they amount to criminal negligence.

(4) Sustainable development and continuous good governance are the responsibility of government. But, since government cannot do these vital goals by itself, the leaders of the private business sector, the religious, academics, and the marginalized should be encouraged/included as stakeholders in actualizing above goals without fear of being branded as “enemies.” Whenever there are differences in opinion – if people’s interests are not met – ordinary Filipinos should speak out freely in the spirit of community-building without fear of reprisals.

Time again for a presidential commission

To save Tagaytay-Taal, it is time again for a Presidential Inter-Agency Task Force/Commission to:

(1) Facilitate investigation of the official complaints and prosecution of those who deserve to be prosecuted according to law.

(2) Restore and guarantee Tagaytay-Taal’s sustainable development.

Please send any comments to Copies of articles are available at

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can’t P-Noy do something to reverse Tagaytay’s deterioration?

by Former President Fidel Valdez Ramos
Manila Bulletin
First of Two Parts
August 7, 2010, 7:32pm

President Aquino III’s appointment of former Tagaytay Mayor Francis Tolentino as MMDA Chairman has created waves of protests from responsible Tagaytayans – concerned residents, taxpayers, voters, and tourists/visitors. Complaints against Chairman Tolentino and family have been exposed in various broadsheets: “Mismanagement, Corruption, and Election Fraud in Tagaytay” by Buddy Cunanan (The Manila Times, Aug. 3, 2010) and “New MMDA Chief Faces Plunder, Graft, and Other Charges” by Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star, Aug. 4, 2010).

Protect P-Noy’s integrity

While these stories appear to come from one source, Reverend/Pastor Ronald Tan, former executive assistant of then Mayor Tolentino (1995-2004), Rev. Tan formalized his charges in a complaint filed with the Ombudsman last July 21. This is only one of several cases filed against Mayor Francis and/or incumbent Mayor Abraham Tolentino with the Ombudsman, DILG, and Comelec.

Quoting Tan, The Philippine Star reported that the two Tolentino brothers... “amassed some R500 million in ill-gotten wealth by way of unabated graft and corruption, abuse of power, and authority in the form of real estate properties, businesses, vehicles, and bank deposits, which in no way can be justified as having been acquired legally through their earnings as public officials or even their private business ventures.”

Comes now Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda with an unjustified dismissal of these serious charges as “simple harassment” with this statement:

“Tolentino is aware that graft charges would be filed (against him). The President is also aware of the graft cases filed before the Ombudsman, Lacierda told reporters. The President and other sectors view the charges against Francis Tolentino as ‘simple harassment,’ he added.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aug. 4, 2010).

Criminal neglect by two mayor-brothers

These complaints need to be looked into immediately by MalacaƱang and not taken lightly – if only to protect the integrity of President Aquino III, whose basis for appointing Francis Tolentino as MMDA Chair was reportedly that he and the latter were Ateneo classmates.

Without getting into above-mentioned criminal, electoral, and administrative cases which will take time to unravel and decide upon, this writer now focuses on the People’s Park in the Sky (PPIS), which was Tagaytay’s major attraction in 1998 for thousands of domestic tourists, foreign visitors, religious faithful, and local residents.

Tragically (and wastefully), however, in the past 12 years, this prize destination has deteriorated into a dirty, smelly, and ugly kind of place. As early as July 12, 2006, FVR wrote a detailed report to PGMA on “the deplorable ecological-environmental state today of Tagaytay, in particular, its centerpiece attraction called the PPIS.”

“With this letter are photographs of the PPIS taken on April 14, 2006 (Good Friday) and the old Tagaytay-Talisay road taken on July 8, 2006. The first set of photos shows the massive deterioration that the PPIS, an unequaled eco-tourism asset, has suffered. It used to be one of Tagaytay’s prime attractions and favorite weekend-holiday destination of thousands of common folks who cannot afford to enjoy the breathtaking view from expensive, high-end vantage points in the Taal-Tagaytay area. Clearly, its facilities and surroundings are in a state of unmitigated disrepair, possibly the result of the criminal neglect of local officials who are responsible for its upkeep.

“The second set of photos shows the continued dumping of garbage along the old national road that extends from the Aguinaldo Highway rotonda at Tagaytay down to Talisay, Batangas. These pictures reveal the need to completely pave and widen the same, which is still a dirt road except for patches of concrete on the Tagaytay side. The Batangas portion is already concreted, widened and apparently well-maintained.

“Let me also submit a CD video of a joint investigation conducted by DENR’s Solid Waste Commission Team headed by Raul Jardin and ABS-CBN’s Bantay Kalikasan on May 6, 2004. Said video shows one of the open garbage dumps in Tagaytay located on a creek flowing towards Taal Lake, and records the total unconcern/inefficiency of responsible LGU managers.”

This has created a stinking, disgraceful eyesore polluting the immediate environment and downstream areas below Tagaytay.

Environmental sustainability

Continues FVR’s report to PGMA: “A Presidential Commission on Tagaytay-Taal (PCTT) was created on April 24, 1993. Under the PCTT, the 10-year (for municipalities) and 20-year (for the whole Tagaytay-Taal area) strategic plans were adopted on November 28, 1995 to promote/insure their sustainable development with these long-term objectives:

* Preserve the natural beauty of the environment.
* Develop the area as an eco-tourism zone.
* Put in place support infrastructures and programs to generate local economic and livelihood development for the people.

“Conscious of the ecosystem’s criticality as the basis for development planning, PCTT’s Chairmanship was transferred from DoT to DENR as the Office of Primary Responsibility on May 6, 1997 per EO 412, s-1997.

“In the run-up years to the Centennial of Philippine Independence (mid-1995 to mid-1998), the PPIS was substantially enhanced as part of the ‘Freedom Trail’ in Cavite Province – identified by the National Centennial Commission chaired by former Vice President Salvador Laurel.

“During those years, various improvements were added to the PPIS to maximize people’s appreciation of this historical-recreational center, notably the Centennial Heroes’ Hall, Presidential Room, Library/Reading Center, Viewing Decks, Outdoor Bandstand, Religious Statue/Worship Place, Picnic Huts, Children’s Playground, Souvenir Shops, and necessary amenities of clean toilets, running water, and safe passageways.

“The main structure, which was and continues to be a DoTC antenna facility, was likewise cleaned up and integrated as part of a wholesome, friendly and presentable complex for people’s enjoyment.

Abolition by Pres. Estrada; inaction by Pres. Arroyo

“Unfortunately and inexplicably, former President Joseph Estrada abolished the PCTT – in one swoop on December 9, 2000 without any provisions for the orderly transfer of its national functions, property/assets and civil service-eligible personnel – per EO 327, s-2000.

“Upon the petition of the unpaid staff, the implementation of said Estrada EO was mercifully deferred for a brief period thru EO 65, s-2001. Then DENR Secretary Heherzon Alvarez, to his credit, took care of the interim residual problems by placing PCTT’s functions, personnel, and assets under DENR’s Taal Volcano Protected Area Management Board in August, 2001, in line with Republic Act 7586. Thereafter, primary responsibility for the implementation of the 10- and 20-year master plans was devolved to the municipalities concerned and Tagaytay City, respectively.

“Last January 3, 2004, on the request of several concerned residents of Tagaytay, then Mayor Francis Tolentino signed a ‘Letter of Undertaking’ committing, among others, to sustain the local environment. While the Tagaytay LGU adopted some of the PCTT master plan’s features, the actual implementation has been characterized by ‘tokenism’ amounting to neglect and unsustainable development, exemplified by:

* “Heavy commercialization;
* “Increase in squatter colonies; and
* “Poor waste disposal systems.”

“The substantial repair and rehabilitation of the PPIS building and its facilities/surroundings will surely expand eco-tourism and other beneficial activities. With the help, support and cooperation of civil society leaders as already manifested in their past dialogues/consultations, and positive action-teamwork on the part of national and LGU officials, Tagaytay – including the PPIS – could be restored to its pristine beauty and made a self-sustaining, revenue-producing, and livelihood-generating educational center; religious retreat/worship place; economic zone for SMEs; and healthcare/retirement community, without becoming overburdened with crass commercialization and squatting.

“It will, however, take consistently good local governance – in which public officials/concerned residents/private entities must join effectively as partners and stakeholders – to make the above happen. Not just goodwill but, more importantly, political will should be exerted constantly to secure/perpetuate this incomparable God-given asset for posterity.

“At this point in time, years after the National Government’s initial enhancements, it is essential to revisit the strategic development plans for Tagaytay as a city for all Filipinos to be proud of, and restore the quality of the PPIS. The primary focus should be on the entire Tagaytay-Taal ecosystem’s sustainability so that it can remain among the nation’s ‘crown jewels’ for the enduring benefit of our people.”

Appeal to P-Noy

Can’t P-Noy do something quickly to reverse Tagaytay’s deterioration? It deserves more than just nonchalance from MalacaƱang. Just visit the PPIS which has been wiped out from Tagaytay’s official 2010 website – because it is now a sorry mess.

Please send any comments to Copies of articles plus photos are available at

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

God sees the truth but waits

Click here to watch video

MMDA chairman commits ‘boo boo’ with reporter

New MMDA chair gets flak from TV reporter, evades media in office 


New MMDA chief sworn in

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:41:00 08/04/2010

Filed Under: Government, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday swore in Francis Tolentino as chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority, dismissing as “simple harassment” accusations that the appointee and his brother had amassed some P500 million in ill-gotten wealth.

Tolentino was among 42 officials who took their oaths under the new administration in simple ceremonies at the Palace.

Among those sworn in were Cayetano Paderanga as director general of the National Economic Development Authority; Angelito Banayo as head of the National Food Authority, and Macra Cruz, officer-in-charge of the beleaguered Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda downplayed the graft charges lodged against Tolentino in a news conference.

“Before (Tolentino) was appointed, he and the President had a talk. (Tolentino is) aware that graft charges would be filed (against him). The President is also aware of the graft cases filed before the Ombudsman,” Lacierda told reporters.

“The President and as well as other sectors view the graft charges against Francis Tolentino as simple harassment,” he added in Filipino.

Lacierda noted that the cases recently filed against Tolentino were made “by those candidates against (a) brother” who won in the last elections.

Tolentino himself is a former mayor of Tagaytay City.

Defeated vice mayoralty candidate in Tagaytay City Ronald Tan had accused Tolentino and his brother Abraham, who is Tagaytay City mayor, of plunder and graft.

Tan, who used to be Tolentino’s executive assistant, said the brothers’ illicit riches came in the form of real estate properties, businesses, vehicles and local and foreign bank deposits, which they could not have amassed through their earnings as public officials or even as businessmen.

Tan claimed that Tolentino had approved blatant land-grabbing activities and questionable auctions of prime lands in the city. He added that Tolentino’s brother Abraham later continued the practice.

He said the auctions were staged, with real estate taxes increased along with zonal values. The time period for auctioning the properties was also shortened to three years from 10 years, he added, leaving land owners with arrears in real estate taxes suddenly without properties to their name. The parcels of land later came under ownership of the Tolentinos’ favored winner or relative, he further said.

“Complainant knows for a fact that all 7-11 franchises in the city are owned by the respondents who likewise own several hotels, restaurants, gasoline stations, buildings, large tracts of land, houses and lots, luxury cars and other wealth which technically and logically cannot be acquired by a city mayor with a salary grade of 30 unless said wealth was amassed through ill-gotten means and unabated graft,” he said.