POSTSCRIPT / March 29, 2007 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why MJ isn't running for mayor -- or senator

SIMPLE REASON: So businessman-philanthropist Mark “MJ” Jimenez is not running for Manila mayor after all. How come?

The reason is simple: He never planned to run for mayor in the first place.

Speculations about his supposed angling for the premier mayorship were fueled by his high visibility and philanthropy among residents of depressed areas in the capital.

Mayoral aspirants felt threatened. They should be, since MJ’s survey ratings have been well above theirs. He has been polling more than 75 percent in Metro Manila, and 80 to 90 percent in some populous Manila districts.

While he can hit any one of them, if he has to, they have no stone to cast on this unusual personality spouting religious-populist rhetoric.

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CLEAN MONEY: MJ seems even more formidable when he digs into his bottomless bag of billions for whatever project or advocacy he fancies.

A conservative estimate places his “sharing” with deprived, neglected or abused Filipinos throughout the country at some P700 million since he returned from the United States in December 2005.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, his prosecutory finger on the ready, was once prompted to ask aloud where MJ was getting all that money. MJ fans laughed, “Inggit lang siya!”

Wherever his billions were coming from, they were a source of wonder and worry among politicians and operators forever awed by wealth and circumstance.

If these billions were not clean money, btw, Gonzalez would have filed charges the other day yet, or at least said a threatening mouthful.

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LEGAL ADDRESS: Early on, another item was added to the guessing game. MJ changed his legal residence from the sixth district (Pandacan), which he represented in the last Congress, to the fifth district (Paco).

In the fertile minds of ward politicians, that was “laying the basis” — another sure sign of his preparing to run. They refused to see that there was nothing unusual about his correcting his legal address, since Paco is his birthplace.

Anyway, there would be a collective sigh of relief among the mayoral aspirants at close of office hours today, Deadline Day, when no sighting within ten miles of the Commission on Elections is reported of MJ and his candidacy papers.

* * *

SENATE, MAYBE?: Okay, if it is not Manila , maybe MJ is aiming for the Senate?

When MJ went on relief missions, a veritable one-man Red Cross, to areas hit by natural and man-made disasters, observers momentarily amended their theories about his supposed political plans. They concluded he must be preparing for a Senate run.

The deadline for candidacies for the Senate, a national office, is long past, but there is a provision for a candidate being replaced by his party. Theoretically MJ could still be sneaked in. Even this early, however, we can safely say that MJ is not running for the Senate either.

How come? The reason is again simple: It seems that MJ was hit by a blinding light, Saul-like, before emerging from more than five months of solitary confinement in a Stateside “bartolina” in Pennsylvania.

For MJ, that light does not blaze a trail leading to Congress. It suggests, I think, another place a little beyond.

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IT’S MARIA: Instead of running, MJ is endorsing the mayoral bid in Manila of his younger sister Maria (also “MJ”) Jimenez.

Maria works side by side MJ in his “sharing” activities. On her own she has launched a daily feeding or soup kitchen program through the San Antonio Charities Foundation.

She has a foreign service degree from the Assumption Convent and manages her own business. She spends much time organizing and supervising the distribution of “Hulog ng Langit” throughout the country.

Their gifts and donations include rosaries, holy water, Divine Mercy posters, T-shirts, and food packs. Sometimes MJ and his “Hulog ng Langit” workers even arrive ahead of government relief agencies.

They have given aid and comfort to distressed families in Oriental Mindoro, Aurora, Bulacan, Quezon, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela, Cagayan, Kalinga-Apayao, Camarines Sur, Naga, Legaspi City, Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Romblon, and Davao.

* * *

JUDICIAL JUNKET: Despite corruption investigations hounding them, three Court of Appeals divisions are set to spend people’s money by going to Baguio City during the Holy Week allegedly to conduct “summer sessions.”

Two of these divisions are based in Manila and the third in Cebu. Why do they want to hold sessions during the somnolent Holy Week, and not afterwards as has been the practice?

Aside from the obvious summer frolic for their families, two of the division chairs are eyeing the SC vacancy soon to be created with the retirement of Justice Romeo Callejo. Is the intention to lobby with President Gloria Arroyo, who will be in Baguio for the Cabinet’s Lenten recollection and her 60th birthday on April 5?

* * *

OLD FOGEY: One of the lobbyists will be almost 69 years old by the time the appointment ripens in June-July. He retires at age 70.

There are JBC rules barring the nomination of those with less than two years to serve in the SC. Is he hoping to get presidential endorsement for an exception to the rule � even if he ends up wasting public funds by going to Baguio and putting the President in an awkward position?

He should prepare instead for an audit that the Supreme Court may conduct on serious allegations of profligate spending — like gasoline expenses amounting to over P20,000 per month and “entertainment” expenses in five-star restaurants complained about by CA employees.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 29, 2007)

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