PHILSTAR EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL: LIFESTYLE CHECK  

With police officers being implicated in the current crime wave, the government is considering lifestyle checks on members of the Philippine National Police. Obviously, with the government’s limited resources and manpower, such checks will not be possible for the more than 100,000 PNP members. But the checks can be conducted on those who have been indicted or are suspected of involvement in illegal activities. In an organization whose tasks include sleuthing, there should be few secrets. Cops can see when their colleagues start living it up with no known legitimate sources of additional income.

In such cases, a mechanism must be set up between the PNP and agencies capable of ferreting out unexplained wealth, so that suspicions can be reported and a discreet lifestyle check can be conducted. Like other government employees, cops are required to submit statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. The SALNs can be checked against actual lifestyles. The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Office of the Ombudsman can be tapped for such checks. When warranted, the Anti-Money Laundering Council can be called in for assistance. If there is reasonable ground to file charges in connection with ill-gotten wealth or tax evasion, the complaints must be filed without waiting for the completion of probes on the involvement of police suspects in shakedowns and organized crime.

The reporting mechanism must encourage PNP personnel to blow the whistle even on their superiors without fear of being identified as the source and singled out for retaliation. Once charges have been filed, questionable assets must be frozen. There are individuals, and not just in the PNP, who are willing to go to prison as long as their dirty money will remain untouched and can be used by their loved ones. The ultimate goal of any lifestyle check must be to make crooks understand that crime does not pay.THIS IS THE FULL EDITORIAL.

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Displaced Pinoys  

Mario was no super typhoon like Yolanda, but floods spawned by the tropical storm shut down Metro Manila yesterday. A lightning bolt knocked out the radar at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, forcing the cancellation of several international and domestic flights.

Around the world, natural calamities displace more people than armed conflicts, according to a report supported by the United Nations. Released last Wednesday, the report prepared by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center said developing countries bear the brunt of displacement, with Asia the worst affected in recent years.

Yolanda placed the Philippines at the top of the world’s worst hit list last year, accounting for the 4.1 million of the 19 million people displaced by disasters in Asia. The UN welcomed the release of the report, saying it highlighted the importance of disaster preparedness, including efficient early warning systems and evacuation programs.

Yesterday’s floods showed that despite experiencing frequent disasters, the Philippines can still do a lot more in improving preparedness. As in previous sustained heavy rains, the communities around the Marikina River and Laguna de Bay were the worst hit by flooding. The tarmac of the NAIA, the nation’s principal gateway, was again flooded. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Marichu Villanueva: A legacy of darkness 

Before he left last Friday for his official trips to Europe and the United States, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III signed his first written and official endorsement of a proposed administration initiative to grant him emergency powers to address the feared electricity shortage during the summer season next year. The proposed measure has been drafted by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla. The DOE secretary has repeatedly warned about the projected shortfall of as much as 300 megawatts (MW) of power supply at the Luzon grid alone.

The mix of available generating capacity from existing hydroelectric power plants in Luzon and even in the Mindanao region are susceptible to the effects of the long dry spell during summer months, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon. With not enough reserve power capacity, there is the likely incidence of power interruptions and worst, possible recurrence of long hours of blackout, Petilla pointed out. As of this writing, the Mindanao region — largely dependent on hydro-power plants — continues to suffer long hours of blackout. The proposed emergency powers will be contained in a Joint Resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives that the two chambers of the 16th Congress would approve separately.

While Congress is dominated by the ruling pro-administration allies led by President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), support for the approval of the proposed measure has not been gaining traction despite dire warnings and procrastination about looming power supply crisis to occur anew in our country. P-Noy’s late mother, former President Corazon Aquino ended her term in 1992 with the country reeling under severe power shortage crisis. It was the offshoot of her administration’s failure to provide replacement for the more than 600-MW of electricity foregone with the government’s decision to mothball the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP). When her anointed successor, former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) took over the government, he immediately grappled with the power crisis problem.

However, FVR was faced with the fact that it takes at least three years to put up a baseload power plant. Moreover, it takes a lot of money to build a power generating plant. A leader gifted with long-term visions for the country, FVR convinced leaders of Congress, then headed by Senate president Edgardo Angara and ally House Speaker Jose de Venecia, to shepherd the grant of emergency powers to him. Although elected as President with minority support, FVR’s consultative style of leadership enabled him to gather legislators from all political parties, including the opposition, to back the grant of this special authority to fast-track the construction of new power plants. For a limited period of one year, the Ramos administration was authorized to enter into negotiated contracts with builders of new power plants.

And to entice investors, incentives were offered ranging from government sovereign guarantees on foreign loans contracted to put up a power generating plant; a take-for-pay provision that would allow power suppliers to pass on to consumers unused electricity costs; provision for power purchase adjustments to ensure profitability of power generators, among other incentives. With such attractive incentives, local and foreign investors came into joint venture power generating projects. They later became called as independent power producers (IPPs). By the end of FVR’s term, our country had surplus power supply to fuel the projected economic growth. Unfortunately, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 took its toll in the Philippines. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Alex Magno : Imperfect  

Before he left for his European sojourn, President Aquino announced that P5 billion will be released to help upgrade the services of the MRT-3. Fine. The money will likely be handed over to APT Global, the current maintenance provider and source of all the MRT woes. The maintenance provider’s contract has been extended because, for some reason, the DOTC conveniently forgot its contract was expiring and did not schedule bidding punctually. How lucky could APT Global be? They will be given more money to do exactly the things they should have done in the lapsed maintenance contract.

All the problems besetting the MRT began on October 19, 2012. That was the day Sumitomo’s maintenance contract was terminated and a new contract was awarded to service providers with no record for the job. The reason given for terminating the Sumitomo contract was that the $2 million a month the company wanted was too expensive. Now, with all the numbers in, it turns out the MRT is actually paying more for the incompetent service provided by PH Trams and then by APT Global — two companies suspiciously linked by common shareholders. DOTC pulled the wool over our eyes using an age-old trick: they chopped up the contract to make it appear that government saves money by using another service provider.

It is the same trick the DOTC used when they tried to argue that government will save money by moving the common station to Trinoma instead of SM North Edsa: by giving us numbers for a station that links LRT-1 and MRT-3 only and comparing that with the cost of building a common station according to the original plan that links the two lines plus the LRT-7 line. Of course, the new Trinoma “common station” will appear cheaper by P1 billion. But another P3 billion will be required to link that to the new line San Miguel will now begin building, plus the great inconvenience to commuters.

In the old contract with Sumitomo, “maintenance” included such things as traction motor replacement, rail steel replacement, regular overhauling of the cars and maintenance of spare parts inventory. In the subsequent contracts, traction motor and rail steel replacement were taken out of the scope of work. If we add up all the costs, continuing with Sumitomo (and its original scope of work) would have actually resulted in savings for the MRT. Had the DOTC continued with Sumitomo at $2 million a month, it would have paid the giant Japanese company a total of $116 million for the 58 months since October 2012.

If we add the $11.5 million paid PH Trams and the $16.8 million paid APT Global to the $92.4 million in contracts the DOTC is bidding out for remedial jobs excluded from the scope of work of the two subsequent maintenance providers, the grand total will be $120.7 million — or $4.7 million more than if Sumitomo was retained. This is the plain arithmetic that reveals the imperfection of the arrangement DOTC incompetently entered into with PH Trams and APT Global. Add to that the unquantifiable misery brought about because the two service providers did their jobs badly for two years. There has to be fraud here somewhere.

The DOTC took us for a ride by stripping down the maintenance contracts and then trying to make us believe money is being saved by getting new maintenance contractors. Either the DOTC is manned by fools or the wise guys there think they can make fools of us all. *READ MORE...

ALSO By Sara Soliven de Guzman: Unresolved   

This is the first time in more than four years of P-Noy’s presidency when I wholeheartedly and fully agree with him. And I think that almost “all his bosses” also agree with him and fully share his hope that his successor will not be himself; that in the coming 2016 Presidential elections he will not be the Liberal Party’s candidate for president. For record purposes and so that he will not claim again that he is misquoted, these are his exact words in tagalog during the “Agenda Setting with Dialogue Partners” held at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang last Friday in the presence of Congress leaders, political allies and other alleged “reformists”:

“Darating po ang panahon para sa pagpili ng kandidato na magpapatuloy ng ating tuwid na daan. Sana po hindi ako ang kandidatong iyon” (“Indeed the time will soon come when the straight path will choose a new candidate. I hope it isn’t me”). To his audience in the Palace identified as his “dialogue partners” but who are actually his die hard supporters known as the yellow brigade, he sounded like he is joking as his statement drew laughter from them. This is expected and understandable because they want PNoy to stay longer so they can continue enjoying the perks and trappings of power. But the rest of us Filipinos who love our country are not laughing because we seriously believe that PNoy should not be his own successor,

Like PNoy, we also hope he will not be his own successor because this will entail so much waste of time and money. We will have to undergo another expensive political exercise of amending our charter. With less than two years before the 2016 presidential elections, it is quite impractical and costly for us to change the charter just to enable PNoy to run for president again and succeed himself. Even if Congress is under his thumb and he can again blitz the approval of the amendments through said body acting as a Constituent Assembly (Con Ass), there will still be substantial amounts of time and public money spent in the process which could be better used for other more worthy public purpose.

For sure, most Filipinos fervently hope and pray that P-Noy will step down at the end of his term or even right now, because during the past four years, they have found out that he is the most unprepared and unqualified president we ever had. Looking back, it seems clear now that Filipinos really made a wrong choice last 2010 or the machines used for the first time in said election made the wrong choice for them. There is no doubt now that the electorate in the 2010 elections just got carried away by the media hype over the death of his mother exploited by his party to assure its return to power. As in the past elections but most especially in that election, voters did not give much attention to the qualifications of the candidates but on their ability to stir the emotions and generate sympathy votes. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Federico Pascual: Noy criticizing GMA abroad in bad taste  

BAD FORM: Will a member of his entourage please whisper to President Noynoy Aquino, now on a trip to Europe, that it is bad form to try elevating one’s self by stepping on others. Addressing an audience of European officials yesterday at the Egmont Institute in Brussels, President Aquino again criticized his predecessor Gloria Arroyo for, he said, grabbing credit for whatever economic growth was attained by the Philippines under his watch. Former President Arroyo, a doctor of economics, was his professor at the Ateneo.

Sources said she gave him a grade of B+ in economics. From Belgium, the second country in his itinerary, the President is scheduled to proceed to France (Sept. 17-18), Germany (Sept. 19-20) and New York, giving him more opportunities to lambaste his predecessor and shine in contrast. * * * THINK TANK: Filipinos are used to Mr. Aquino’s penchant for blaming his predecessor for his many problems. But it is embarrassing to see him carrying his Blame Game to distant shores, badmouthing her before foreigners who stop long enough to listen.

Its website describes the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations as an independent think tank based in Brussels. Its interdisciplinary research draws on the expertise of its research fellows, as well as that of external specialists. It provides analysis and policy options. From its setting that is the Egmont Palace, the institute offers a forum to visiting heads of state and government, representatives of international organizations, foreign ministers and other political figures. Conferences, colloquia and seminars give research fellows and participants the opportunity to exchange views with other specialists.

You can view the Egmont colloquium with President Aquino at http://youtu.be/ThQ_icl-fXc * * * LOST DECADE?: In a prepared speech, the President described the term of his predecessor as a “lost decade” when opportunities, he said, were squandered and attention was “focused on political self-preservation” instead of “laying foundations for growth.”

“Before my term the Philippines was marred (mired?) in a vicious cycle of corruption, deceit and negativism,” he told the audience. “Some people had grown so apathetic that it seemed the only ambition left for them was to leave the country to look for any opportunity.”

“Despite this, the previous administration had the temerity to claim credit for the continued growth, which was actually fueled by Filipinos who were working abroad,” he said. * * * CREDIT DUE: Maybe I have not read enough or kept track of statements of the former president but I do not remember Ms Arroyo herself claiming credit for whatever economic gains followed through during the Aquino years. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Ana Marie Pamintuan: How damaging? 

With his supporters providing moral support, Vice President Jejomar Binay finally answered the accusations of corruption against him yesterday. As expected, he denied the charges and insisted that the construction of the Makati parking building was aboveboard. He said funding for the project was appropriated annually, with disbursements subjected to annual state auditing. All witnesses against him and his family have an ax to grind, Binay said.

The witnesses’ stories, from the legal point of view, can be dismissed as hearsay, he argued. That sounded like the lawyer in him talking, and his rebuttal seemed like one meant for presentation in court. Not the “kangaroo court” – as Binay described it – set up by his political enemies at the Senate, but the Sandiganbayan, where the Office of the Ombudsman may file charges in connection with the parking building if not against Binay himself, then against his relatives and their aides. His accusers sneered at his “motherhood” denials. The accusations may turn out to be true, but there are neutral observers who agree about the kangaroo court tag.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his partner in the probe, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, launched the probe not to ferret out the truth or in aid of legislation. They concluded a long time ago that the project was anomalous and the Binays are guilty, and all that was needed was a platform to tell the nation about it. Apart from Cayetano’s well-known clan feud with the Binays, he has also announced plans to seek the presidency in 2016, wherein the frontrunner so far, according to surveys, is the Vice President. Trillanes, meanwhile, is known to be eyeing the vice presidency.

The Binay camp is also chafing over the blessings given to the probe by Senate President Franklin Drilon, a stalwart of the Liberal Party (LP), whose presumptive standard bearer is languishing in the polls. It’s unlikely that the LP standard bearer will get a ratings boost from the Senate probe of Binay. Cayetano may also risk a backlash from his negative tack against a rival. Going negative in this country can pull down the target but rarely benefits the direct purveyor. But Cayetano and Trillanes will probably achieve some success in pulling Binay down.

And with all the media coverage, Cayetano has surely improved his name recall, although it’s doubtful that he can dislodge other potential candidates such as Sen. Grace Poe from their perch. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago may rate higher than Cayetano. The results of third quarter surveys will come out in October, so we’ll know the impact of the probe soon enough. * * * Binay is not the first frontrunner in a presidential race to face blistering fire from potential rivals. *READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL - Lifestyle check

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 (PHILSTAR) EDITORIAL - With police officers being implicated in the current crime wave, the government is considering lifestyle checks on members of the Philippine National Police. Obviously, with the government’s limited resources and manpower, such checks will not be possible for the more than 100,000 PNP members. But the checks can be conducted on those who have been indicted or are suspected of involvement in illegal activities.

In an organization whose tasks include sleuthing, there should be few secrets. Cops can see when their colleagues start living it up with no known legitimate sources of additional income. In such cases, a mechanism must be set up between the PNP and agencies capable of ferreting out unexplained wealth, so that suspicions can be reported and a discreet lifestyle check can be conducted.

Like other government employees, cops are required to submit statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. The SALNs can be checked against actual lifestyles. The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Office of the Ombudsman can be tapped for such checks. When warranted, the Anti-Money Laundering Council can be called in for assistance.

If there is reasonable ground to file charges in connection with ill-gotten wealth or tax evasion, the complaints must be filed without waiting for the completion of probes on the involvement of police suspects in shakedowns and organized crime.

The reporting mechanism must encourage PNP personnel to blow the whistle even on their superiors without fear of being identified as the source and singled out for retaliation.

Once charges have been filed, questionable assets must be frozen. There are individuals, and not just in the PNP, who are willing to go to prison as long as their dirty money will remain untouched and can be used by their loved ones. The ultimate goal of any lifestyle check must be to make crooks understand that crime does not pay.

EDITORIAL - Displaced (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

Mario was no super typhoon like Yolanda, but floods spawned by the tropical storm shut down Metro Manila yesterday. A lightning bolt knocked out the radar at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, forcing the cancellation of several international and domestic flights.

Around the world, natural calamities displace more people than armed conflicts, according to a report supported by the United Nations. Released last Wednesday, the report prepared by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center said developing countries bear the brunt of displacement, with Asia the worst affected in recent years.

Yolanda placed the Philippines at the top of the world’s worst hit list last year, accounting for the 4.1 million of the 19 million people displaced by disasters in Asia. The UN welcomed the release of the report, saying it highlighted the importance of disaster preparedness, including efficient early warning systems and evacuation programs.

Yesterday’s floods showed that despite experiencing frequent disasters, the Philippines can still do a lot more in improving preparedness. As in previous sustained heavy rains, the communities around the Marikina River and Laguna de Bay were the worst hit by flooding. The tarmac of the NAIA, the nation’s principal gateway, was again flooded.

* The nation need not be helpless in facing torrential flooding. There are innovations in structural engineering and architecture as well as technological advances in flood control that the Philippines can consider. Several European countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, where President Aquino is currently a guest, are leading in this field.

There’s money for flood control: a tax is collected specifically for this purpose from every moviegoer. That money must be utilized for modern and improved systems of flood control. There are other funds allocated annually to national agencies and local government units for disaster prevention and mitigation. There’s a wide room for more efficient utilization of these funds. It will mean less damage to property and crops. More importantly, it will mean fewer fatalities and displaced people.

A legacy of darkness COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 19, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


Marichu A. Villanueva

Before he left last Friday for his official trips to Europe and the United States, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III signed his first written and official endorsement of a proposed administration initiative to grant him emergency powers to address the feared electricity shortage during the summer season next year. The proposed measure has been drafted by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla.

The DOE secretary has repeatedly warned about the projected shortfall of as much as 300 megawatts (MW) of power supply at the Luzon grid alone. The mix of available generating capacity from existing hydroelectric power plants in Luzon and even in the Mindanao region are susceptible to the effects of the long dry spell during summer months, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.

With not enough reserve power capacity, there is the likely incidence of power interruptions and worst, possible recurrence of long hours of blackout, Petilla pointed out. As of this writing, the Mindanao region — largely dependent on hydro-power plants — continues to suffer long hours of blackout.

The proposed emergency powers will be contained in a Joint Resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives that the two chambers of the 16th Congress would approve separately. While Congress is dominated by the ruling pro-administration allies led by President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), support for the approval of the proposed measure has not been gaining traction despite dire warnings and procrastination about looming power supply crisis to occur anew in our country.

P-Noy’s late mother, former President Corazon Aquino ended her term in 1992 with the country reeling under severe power shortage crisis. It was the offshoot of her administration’s failure to provide replacement for the more than 600-MW of electricity foregone with the government’s decision to mothball the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP).

When her anointed successor, former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) took over the government, he immediately grappled with the power crisis problem. However, FVR was faced with the fact that it takes at least three years to put up a baseload power plant. Moreover, it takes a lot of money to build a power generating plant.

A leader gifted with long-term visions for the country, FVR convinced leaders of Congress, then headed by Senate president Edgardo Angara and ally House Speaker Jose de Venecia, to shepherd the grant of emergency powers to him. Although elected as President with minority support, FVR’s consultative style of leadership enabled him to gather legislators from all political parties, including the opposition, to back the grant of this special authority to fast-track the construction of new power plants.

For a limited period of one year, the Ramos administration was authorized to enter into negotiated contracts with builders of new power plants. And to entice investors, incentives were offered ranging from government sovereign guarantees on foreign loans contracted to put up a power generating plant; a take-for-pay provision that would allow power suppliers to pass on to consumers unused electricity costs; provision for power purchase adjustments to ensure profitability of power generators, among other incentives.

With such attractive incentives, local and foreign investors came into joint venture power generating projects. They later became called as independent power producers (IPPs). By the end of FVR’s term, our country had surplus power supply to fuel the projected economic growth.

Unfortunately, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 took its toll in the Philippines.

* Although our country was taken out of darkness — literally and thankfully -— we all paid a dear price. There was no other option but to take the bitter pill to enjoy uninterrupted electricity.

What made it worse was the passage into law of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in 2001. The IPPs, through their legislators, were able to insert a provision to protect their investments from undue competition. A seeming harmless provision tied the hands of the government from putting up new power plants.

With former state-run power plants privatized under EPIRA, no new baseload plants were built. So, no additional capacity was put up.

From then on, we have to pay for more expensive electricity comparatively higher than our neighboring countries up to now.

Sadly, FVR’s solving the power crisis has become the convenient excuse for those who are now vehemently opposing the requested grant of emergency powers to P-Noy.

After initially waffling on the recommendation of Petilla, P-Noy finally invoked Section 71 of the EPIRA which provided that: “Upon the determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

This early, Senate president Franklin Drilon admitted this certified urgent administration measure will not have easy sailing at the legislature. Drilon said this will go through the gauntlet among the senators. The Senate has less the three opposition senators who are currently in detention undergoing plunder trial at the Sandiganbayan.

Even among LP stalwarts like him, the Senate president expressed reluctance to the proposed grant to P-Noy of emergency powers to address the projected power supply shortage. Drilon cited the report of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) about actual surplus capacity from existing generating plants like Ilijan power plant that are underutilized.

The JCPC is a bicameral oversight body of senators and congressmen that review the implementation of EPIRA. It is co-headed by Sen.Sergio Osmeña III and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali who are the respective chairmen of the Senate and House committees on energy.

Speaking of Osmeña, the Cebuano senator is most vocal in staunchly opposing to grant such emergency powers to what he described as “lousy managers” of the country’s energy sector. Osmeña has consistently attacked Petilla, including the President for what he believes is a case of mishandling the energy sector.

Incidentally, the senator’s vehement objection to the emergency powers has extended all the way to block the confirmation of Petilla as DOE secretary. A member of the Commission on Appointments, Osmeña has swayed the powerful bicameral body to bypass the appointment of Petilla. The former Leyte governor became DOE Secretary more than two years ago after P-Noy recruited him into the Cabinet.

Petilla earlier told the JCPC that the emergency powers resolution was just for “insurance” and may not be exercised at all if things turn out well. The DOE secretary must make up his mind and for once, be decisive.

With just two years left before P-Noy steps down from office, there is more likelihood this Aquino administration may leave a legacy of bringing us back to the dark days again.

Imperfect FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 18, 2014 - 12:00am 2 25 googleplus1 1


Alex Magno

Before he left for his European sojourn, President Aquino announced that P5 billion will be released to help upgrade the services of the MRT-3. Fine.

The money will likely be handed over to APT Global, the current maintenance provider and source of all the MRT woes. The maintenance provider’s contract has been extended because, for some reason, the DOTC conveniently forgot its contract was expiring and did not schedule bidding punctually.

How lucky could APT Global be? They will be given more money to do exactly the things they should have done in the lapsed maintenance contract.

All the problems besetting the MRT began on October 19, 2012. That was the day Sumitomo’s maintenance contract was terminated and a new contract was awarded to service providers with no record for the job.

The reason given for terminating the Sumitomo contract was that the $2 million a month the company wanted was too expensive. Now, with all the numbers in, it turns out the MRT is actually paying more for the incompetent service provided by PH Trams and then by APT Global — two companies suspiciously linked by common shareholders.

DOTC pulled the wool over our eyes using an age-old trick: they chopped up the contract to make it appear that government saves money by using another service provider.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

It is the same trick the DOTC used when they tried to argue that government will save money by moving the common station to Trinoma instead of SM North Edsa: by giving us numbers for a station that links LRT-1 and MRT-3 only and comparing that with the cost of building a common station according to the original plan that links the two lines plus the LRT-7 line. Of course, the new Trinoma “common station” will appear cheaper by P1 billion. But another P3 billion will be required to link that to the new line San Miguel will now begin building, plus the great inconvenience to commuters.

In the old contract with Sumitomo, “maintenance” included such things as traction motor replacement, rail steel replacement, regular overhauling of the cars and maintenance of spare parts inventory. In the subsequent contracts, traction motor and rail steel replacement were taken out of the scope of work.

If we add up all the costs, continuing with Sumitomo (and its original scope of work) would have actually resulted in savings for the MRT.

Had the DOTC continued with Sumitomo at $2 million a month, it would have paid the giant Japanese company a total of $116 million for the 58 months since October 2012. If we add the $11.5 million paid PH Trams and the $16.8 million paid APT Global to the $92.4 million in contracts the DOTC is bidding out for remedial jobs excluded from the scope of work of the two subsequent maintenance providers, the grand total will be $120.7 million — or $4.7 million more than if Sumitomo was retained.

This is the plain arithmetic that reveals the imperfection of the arrangement DOTC incompetently entered into with PH Trams and APT Global. Add to that the unquantifiable misery brought about because the two service providers did their jobs badly for two years. There has to be fraud here somewhere.

The DOTC took us for a ride by stripping down the maintenance contracts and then trying to make us believe money is being saved by getting new maintenance contractors. Either the DOTC is manned by fools or the wise guys there think they can make fools of us all.

* On top of that, a seriously misinformed President finds the gall to blame the MRT woes on the previous administration.

Perfection

As the last notes were played, the audience jumped to its feet to honor the violinist with a prolonged standing ovation. The crowd wanted to hear more; the prodigy obliged.

From the classical pieces in the main repertoire, Chino Gonzales treated us to an interpretation of Paganini’s “Cantabile” and then a playful take on “Tinikling.” Then he closed with a magical interpretation of “Bayan Ko” that left us all stunned.

I wrote about Chino Gonzales a few months ago in this space — although it is rare for me to endorse artists. This one is special: a young Filipino prodigy who needs many helping hands to perfect his craft.

If we can raise enough to make a young Filipino ice skater make it at the highest level of the sport, we surely could raise more to bring forth a Filipino musician to the global center stage. Sure, national pride is a consideration. More important, however, is the possibility of achieving perfection of an art. Chino is on the brink.

The young musician comes from a family of modest means. It took many helping hands to bring him to the Munich State Academy of Music and Theater to polish his craft, refine his talent.

Last Saturday, before returning to his studies at Munich, Chino offered a recital for those whose helping hands invested much in this rare talent. The recital, held at the BDO Tower as a typhoon threatened, drew a most sophisticated crowd.

The repertoire included some of the most technically challenging pieces from Bach, Brahms, Tartini, Bloch, Tchaikovsky and Sarasate. The pieces chosen, I am told, would daunt the best of violinists. They required skill and feel, adequacy and passion.

Chino executed them to perfection, one brilliant piece after the other. The training at Munich shows. The promise holds.

There was no better way to have spent a rainy Saturday night than in the company of a homegrown genius.

Our fondest hope A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 15, 2014 - 12:00am 0 21 googleplus0 3 T


Sara Soliven De Guzman

This is the first time in more than four years of P-Noy’s presidency when I wholeheartedly and fully agree with him. And I think that almost “all his bosses” also agree with him and fully share his hope that his successor will not be himself; that in the coming 2016 Presidential elections he will not be the Liberal Party’s candidate for president.

For record purposes and so that he will not claim again that he is misquoted, these are his exact words in tagalog during the “Agenda Setting with Dialogue Partners” held at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang last Friday in the presence of Congress leaders, political allies and other alleged “reformists”: “Darating po ang panahon para sa pagpili ng kandidato na magpapatuloy ng ating tuwid na daan. Sana po hindi ako ang kandidatong iyon” (“Indeed the time will soon come when the straight path will choose a new candidate. I hope it isn’t me”).

To his audience in the Palace identified as his “dialogue partners” but who are actually his die hard supporters known as the yellow brigade, he sounded like he is joking as his statement drew laughter from them. This is expected and understandable because they want PNoy to stay longer so they can continue enjoying the perks and trappings of power. But the rest of us Filipinos who love our country are not laughing because we seriously believe that PNoy should not be his own successor,

Like PNoy, we also hope he will not be his own successor because this will entail so much waste of time and money. We will have to undergo another expensive political exercise of amending our charter. With less than two years before the 2016 presidential elections, it is quite impractical and costly for us to change the charter just to enable PNoy to run for president again and succeed himself. Even if Congress is under his thumb and he can again blitz the approval of the amendments through said body acting as a Constituent Assembly (Con Ass), there will still be substantial amounts of time and public money spent in the process which could be better used for other more worthy public purpose.

For sure, most Filipinos fervently hope and pray that P-Noy will step down at the end of his term or even right now, because during the past four years, they have found out that he is the most unprepared and unqualified president we ever had. Looking back, it seems clear now that Filipinos really made a wrong choice last 2010 or the machines used for the first time in said election made the wrong choice for them. There is no doubt now that the electorate in the 2010 elections just got carried away by the media hype over the death of his mother exploited by his party to assure its return to power. As in the past elections but most especially in that election, voters did not give much attention to the qualifications of the candidates but on their ability to stir the emotions and generate sympathy votes.

Majority of the Filipinos are really hoping and praying that our charter will not be changed anymore enabling P-Noy to run again because they now realize that his administration is more of form than substance. He has repeatedly boasted of the positive results of his straight and narrow path and of the reforms implemented by his administration. But what is happening in our country now shows exactly the opposite.

And when confronted with the present situation especially about the more rampant graft and corruption, the breakdown in peace and order where the policemen themselves are involved, the deterioration of public transport, the continuing poverty in the land despite the supposed economic gains where only the rich are getting richer while the poor gets even poorer, he refuses to accept them. Instead he insists on his alleged straight path and continues to defend his officials while at the same time blaming the past administration.

People really wish and pray deep in their hearts that P-Noy’s successor will be somebody else because they have seen that while he continues to project an image of a reformist president out to eliminate graft and corruption in this country, he has even increased the pork barrel known as the PDAF which is generally accepted as the biggest source of corruption. And worse here is that he even surreptitiously created his own pork barrel known as the DAP which is supposedly an economic stimulus program of his government. Obviously, his words speak louder than his actions.

His words indeed speak louder than his actions when he also said during the forum in Malacanang that: “My first priority has always been what will be good for all and not just for now but also for future generation of Filipinos.”

Yet he is the only president who aggressively pushed for the passage of the RH law sponsored by foreign lobbyists even to the extent of reportedly using the PDAF to convince members of Congress to pass it.

As it is now turning out the law is more for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the contraceptives that will be purchased by the government for distribution and use especially by poor people who cannot afford them.

And as it is now also being shown, the use of these contraceptives has adverse effects not only on the life and health of Filipinos but also on the moral welfare especially of the future generations as it promotes sexual promiscuity among the youth that eventually leads to abortion because of unwanted pregnancies. Indeed, right now, there are already moves to justify abortion in some instances and include the proposal in our Code of Crimes.

Let us all hope and pray that P-Noy will not succeed himself into the presidency also because of his self righteousness.

He cannot accept his mistake and justifies his wrong actions allegedly with good intentions.

And this is very obvious in his reaction when the Supreme Court declared his DAP, the PDAF and some provisions of the RH law unconstitutional. He disregarded the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances under our constitution by frontally attacking the SC and threatening to clip its powers as an independent and separate branch of government.

P-Noy may really be joking when he expressed that hope. But let us all work hard and pray that said hope come true.

Noy criticizing GMA abroad in bad taste POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 18, 2014 - 12:00am 4 524 googleplus1 1


Federico D. Pascual Jr.

BAD FORM: Will a member of his entourage please whisper to President Noynoy Aquino, now on a trip to Europe, that it is bad form to try elevating one’s self by stepping on others.

Addressing an audience of European officials yesterday at the Egmont Institute in Brussels, President Aquino again criticized his predecessor Gloria Arroyo for, he said, grabbing credit for whatever economic growth was attained by the Philippines under his watch.

Former President Arroyo, a doctor of economics, was his professor at the Ateneo. Sources said she gave him a grade of B+ in economics.

From Belgium, the second country in his itinerary, the President is scheduled to proceed to France (Sept. 17-18), Germany (Sept. 19-20) and New York, giving him more opportunities to lambaste his predecessor and shine in contrast.

* * *

THINK TANK: Filipinos are used to Mr. Aquino’s penchant for blaming his predecessor for his many problems. But it is embarrassing to see him carrying his Blame Game to distant shores, badmouthing her before foreigners who stop long enough to listen.

Its website describes the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations as an independent think tank based in Brussels. Its interdisciplinary research draws on the expertise of its research fellows, as well as that of external specialists. It provides analysis and policy options.

From its setting that is the Egmont Palace, the institute offers a forum to visiting heads of state and government, representatives of international organizations, foreign ministers and other political figures. Conferences, colloquia and seminars give research fellows and participants the opportunity to exchange views with other specialists.

You can view the Egmont colloquium with President Aquino at http://youtu.be/ThQ_icl-fXc

* * *

LOST DECADE?: In a prepared speech, the President described the term of his predecessor as a “lost decade” when opportunities, he said, were squandered and attention was “focused on political self-preservation” instead of “laying foundations for growth.”

“Before my term the Philippines was marred (mired?) in a vicious cycle of corruption, deceit and negativism,” he told the audience. “Some people had grown so apathetic that it seemed the only ambition left for them was to leave the country to look for any opportunity.”

“Despite this, the previous administration had the temerity to claim credit for the continued growth, which was actually fueled by Filipinos who were working abroad,” he said.

* * *

CREDIT DUE: Maybe I have not read enough or kept track of statements of the former president but I do not remember Ms Arroyo herself claiming credit for whatever economic gains followed through during the Aquino years.

* It was others, including economic authorities and foreign institutions, that had credited the Arroyo administration for having shielded the Philippines from economic shock waves from abroad and laid the basis for future growth.

A number of the infrastructure inaugurated or being pursued by President Aquino are actually projects planned and launched by the previous administration that he is now badmouthing abroad.

President Aquino should be careful about what he claims before foreign experts, such as the Egmont crowd, because they know enough of the facts.

* * *

LEFT UNSAID: At the Brussels forum, President Aquino said that from 2006 to 2009, the Philippines’ average economic growth was only 4.3 percent, but that from 2010 to 2013, under his watch, the economy grew by an average of 6.3 percent.

He failed to note, however, that he did not build the economy from zero base.

The President also reported that 2.5 million Filipinos had lifted themselves from poverty from 2012 to 2013, also under his watch. He did not say, however, how many more millions are still jobless, wallowing in poverty and had not benefitted from the supposed fruits of economic growth.

He boasted of his administration’s achievements in transparency and accountability, citing the impeachments of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Chief Justice Renato Corona, both Arroyo appointees.

Left unsaid was that hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ money was spent to clinch the impeachment and the ouster of the Chief Justice. The world has not seen yet the final audit of the pork barrel used, including unconstitutional DAP “savings,” in buying lawmakers’ votes.

* * *

DOUBLE STANDARDS: President Aquino told the Egmont audience: “My predecessor is under hospital arrest as she faces two serious unbailable charges with another one still being reviewed by our Ombudsman.”

The knowledgeable crowd must have been aware that under our system of laws similar to theirs, Ms Arroyo is still presumed innocent, and that several charges against her had been dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

Even the remaining plunder complaint over Sweepstakes intelligence funds is hanging by just a delicate thread of a ministerial marginal OK she had affixed on an office document.

While President Aquino regaled his audience with stories of how he went after corrupt officials, he did not explain why until this late date, none of his thieving political allies and partymates have been dragged to the Sandiganbayan on plunder or graft charges.

* * *

JUSTICE WAITS: Let us await the objective and comprehensive assessments of those who are in possession of the unvarnished facts to compare the economic performance of the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.

Let us pray that justice be done as we also await the filing of graft/corruption and plunder charges against whoever had committed the crimes — be they friends or foes of President Aquino.

Meantime, it is premature and unfair — and in utter bad taste — for no less that the President to make clearly partisan reports to foreign audiences. We are lucky the crowd he was addressing is well-informed.

It is not right that somebody in a position of advantage will oppress and discredit another in his attempt to gain political points.

How damaging? SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 19, 2014 - 12:00am 0 5 googleplus1 0


ANA MARIE PAMINTUAN

With his supporters providing moral support, Vice President Jejomar Binay finally answered the accusations of corruption against him yesterday.

As expected, he denied the charges and insisted that the construction of the Makati parking building was aboveboard. He said funding for the project was appropriated annually, with disbursements subjected to annual state auditing.

All witnesses against him and his family have an ax to grind, Binay said. The witnesses’ stories, from the legal point of view, can be dismissed as hearsay, he argued.

That sounded like the lawyer in him talking, and his rebuttal seemed like one meant for presentation in court. Not the “kangaroo court” – as Binay described it – set up by his political enemies at the Senate, but the Sandiganbayan, where the Office of the Ombudsman may file charges in connection with the parking building if not against Binay himself, then against his relatives and their aides.

His accusers sneered at his “motherhood” denials. The accusations may turn out to be true, but there are neutral observers who agree about the kangaroo court tag. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his partner in the probe, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, launched the probe not to ferret out the truth or in aid of legislation. They concluded a long time ago that the project was anomalous and the Binays are guilty, and all that was needed was a platform to tell the nation about it.

Apart from Cayetano’s well-known clan feud with the Binays, he has also announced plans to seek the presidency in 2016, wherein the frontrunner so far, according to surveys, is the Vice President. Trillanes, meanwhile, is known to be eyeing the vice presidency.

The Binay camp is also chafing over the blessings given to the probe by Senate President Franklin Drilon, a stalwart of the Liberal Party (LP), whose presumptive standard bearer is languishing in the polls.

It’s unlikely that the LP standard bearer will get a ratings boost from the Senate probe of Binay. Cayetano may also risk a backlash from his negative tack against a rival. Going negative in this country can pull down the target but rarely benefits the direct purveyor.

But Cayetano and Trillanes will probably achieve some success in pulling Binay down. And with all the media coverage, Cayetano has surely improved his name recall, although it’s doubtful that he can dislodge other potential candidates such as Sen. Grace Poe from their perch. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago may rate higher than Cayetano.

The results of third quarter surveys will come out in October, so we’ll know the impact of the probe soon enough.

* * *

Binay is not the first frontrunner in a presidential race to face blistering fire from potential rivals.

* Another vice president, Joseph Estrada, also made no secret of his plan to run for president. Candidate Erap saw everything thrown at him including the kitchen sink. Serial philanderer, gambler, alcoholic – he was linked even to the disappearance (still unsolved) of a Pagcor employee suspected of leaking a video during the 1998 campaign, showing Erap playing high-stakes poker in a casino VIP pit. Erap laughed off all the scandals, used criticism of his English to endear himself to the masses, and coasted to a landslide win in 1998.

Such attacks can have a serious impact on a prospective candidate who has built up an image as Mr. Clean. We’ve seen several candidates in the past who fell by the wayside because of this. But Erap never saw the need to apologize for being a man who loved wine, women and bacchanalia. He never claimed to be Mr. Clean.

To a certain extent, neither has Binay. Rumors of corruption have hounded him and his family for some time, and graft charges were filed years ago. Yet the people of Makati keep sustaining the Binay dynasty, and a national constituency sent him to the second highest office in the land.

But Binay must do more to confront rumors against him and his relatives squarely, if he wants to maintain his lead over potential rivals in 2016.

That LP spiel about picking a successor who can continue President Aquino’s reforms along the straight path or daang matuwid is clearly aimed at Binay.

The spiel isn’t gaining traction because the scandals over the pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Program and extortion in the Metro Rail Transit 3 have given the impression that daang matuwid is losing the moral high ground.

P-Noy is also seen to be protecting friends accused of wrongdoing or seen to be incompetent. That “walang iwanan” battle cry is starting to look more like his erring Cabinet officials telling him he can’t fire them, rather than him telling them not to abandon him.

Even P-Noy’s hope of seeking a second term is damaging to daang matuwid (and the LP, since it was first proposed by its president-on-leave). P-Noy seems unable to comprehend why even those who supported him would not want the Constitution amended to give him six more years in power.

He is also sending confusing signals about his spare tire, saying Binay must let the truth prevail, while at the same time praising the VP’s performance as the Cabinet man in charge of housing and overseas Filipino workers.

Since the Senate probe on Binay began, a common question is how damaging it can be to his 2016 prospects. The answer will depend on what will be the overriding public concern. Will corruption be at the top of the list? Jobs? Prices? Traffic? Criminality? It will also depend on the virtues of the alternatives.

* * *

FROM THE MIAA CHIEF: Reacting to my column on airports, General Manager Jose Angel Honrado of the Manila International Airport Authority wrote to say that the success or failure of a government official in his job “is influenced by factors sometimes out of his control. This is a given assumption once one accepts the responsibility.”

On the NAIA 3 arbitration, he wrote: “Like the rest of the world, the Government is equally wanting to see the end to this issue. Meantime, we are left with no choice but to wait and hope that all efforts to obtain a final settlement will not be in vain.”

On immigration officers at the NAIA 3: “(Immigration) Commissioner (Siegfred) Mison no less, informed me that he has initiated the acquisition of more passport reading machines and hiring of more immigration offices to address their increased requirements in NAIA T3.

With these in place, the process will become faster and more convenient for passengers queuing up to be cleared.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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