MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL:
DILG's Captain Backfire   

OCT 21 ---IN what should be the perfect time to show the people that he could be the best next leader of this country, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II once again showed he is all talk and little else. Last week, during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the earthquake in Central Visayas that left more than 200 dead, Roxas scolded the mayors of the province of Bohol for failing to implement rehabilitation projects despite the availability of funds. We would have agreed with the secretary. One year is one year, and people deserve no less from their government than to put them back on their feet after a disaster at the soonest possible time. That local executives have failed at this basic task is cause for anger and indignation.

But we find out that the national government turned over P2.4 billion to the provincial government for rehabilitation of infrastructure and other buildings damaged by the quake only in June this year. Worse, we now hear that the mayors had not been able to submit their rehabilitation details and programs of works because the DILG itself only issued the guidelines for the program called Bohol Earthquake Assistance on August 1. Local chief executives are supposed to follow, and strictly, these guidelines, such that earlier submission are said to have been returned to the mayors for lack of attachments. Roxas, then, would have nobody to blame but his own agency for failing to release the guidelines that would allow local leaders to gain access to rehabilitation fund. From the way he talked, though, it appeared he had done everything in his power for the people of Bohol, leading him to feel entitled to scold the mayors who knew firsthand what they needed but not how they could immediately get their plans under way. * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Subverting the budget    

OCT 27---WHILE the Aquino administration pounds its political enemies over allegations of corruption, it is quietly trying to slip the biggest illegal diversion of funds in history under our very noses. Its accomplices in this plunder are the malleable members of Congress, who cannot be counted upon to constitute a quorum on ordinary days, but who think nothing of railroading bad legislation through the mill if the correct palms are greased. The legislation in question is none other than the P2.606 trillion national budget for 2015, which, if the administration gets its way, will have 100 pages of changes—deviously disguised as “errata”—that the majority of lawmakers never examined or debated before the General Appropriations Act was passed on second reading. Those among us who take the legislative process seriously are compelled to ask: How can Congress pass a law when it has not examined it, much less debated on it? Where is the careful deliberation of how public funds are spent?

The administration claims the errata merely correct typographical errors in the budget document, yet it has done nothing to dispel the impression that the changes are more substantive, and are aimed at giving President Benigno Aquino III wide discretion to shuffle public funds around, regardless of the original intent of Congress. In particular, one such change would enable the President to impound funding for congressionally approved programs as early as the first quarter of the budget year, and to transfer these funds to other projects of his choosing. While this provision would cloak the President with some semblance of legality, nothing will hide the blatant violation of the Constitution that such an act would entail, subverting as it does the legislative power of the purse, and all but obviating the constitutionally ingrained separation of powers. * READ MORE...

ALSO The energy crisis: Flip, flop, flip  

OCT 23 ---They appear to have gotten it right the first time. Then they said they got it all wrong, before they declared again this week that they were right all along and probably never should have bothered anyone to begin with. So now, the Department of Energy has told Congress that there will, in actual fact, be no power supply crisis, which will mean no emergency powers for President Noynoy Aquino, which will in turn mean no Congress action granting him those powers. The way this government is run—and the way our legislators are only too willing to go along with any cockamamie proposal from Malacañang, like granting Aquino emergency powers—continues to amaze. My own belief is that we should all be prepared for a power supply shortage next year, anyway. After all, you never know when those fools at the energy department will change their minds again – or find some new excuse for claiming that they have always been correct when things go wrong.

Scant attention was paid to DoE’s presentation before the House committee on energy last Monday of its first detailed projections of the power situation for the coming year – and rightly so, given the flip-flopping of that department on the matter. The embarrassing presentation revealed that the actual supply shortage for 2015 would amount to around 31 megawatts, equivalent to a one-hour rotating brownout a week and limited to the first two weeks of April alone. While the revelation hardly justified granting emergency powers to the President—and the spending of P6 billion to P10 billion to purchase power, by most estimates—DoE had a great excuse: it required 700 megawatts of power on reserve at all times, for emergencies such as power plant breakdowns, for example, which was why it had come to Congress seeking emergency powers to allow Aquino to contract the supply beforehand.

Congress (which had never seriously questioned why the broad powers for Aquino were required) was unimpressed. They were apparently all too ready to grant Aquino the powers he sought, but how could they give them to him when his own energy department now says that it could not really have the justification for seeking them? “I was an all-out supporter [of the emergency powers proposal] but today, it seems that the DoE has to convince me more to maintain my support on this recommended authority,” said Malacañang ally Rep. Henry Oaminal. “The only reason we’re rushing this up is so we can beat the deadline for contracting or leasing additional generating capacity,” a clearly irritated Rep. Reynaldo Umali said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: An imminent breakaway  

OCT 23 --For more than four years since President Aquino came to power, I have been asking friends why he hates his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so much. He lambasts her on any occasion and calls her nine years in power “the lost decade”.
I cannot think of any reason except that Mr. Aquino wants to prove here at home and before the whole world that he is serious about his straight-path mantra. He went as far as to cause the impeachment, conviction and ouster of her Chief Justice. But with this reform agenda, I wonder what the President is doing about his allies implicated in so many anomalies. The answer is nothing. * * *

At the rate the Liberal Party attack dogs of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas and President Aquino are pursuing a well-scripted and well-orchestrated demolition job against Vice President Jejomar Binay, the breakaway of Binay from the Aquino administration may come sooner than expected. Even a veteran politician like Binay can only take so much. I included the President as part of the cabal out to demolish the chances of Binay in becoming the next President in 2016 because I cannot believe he has no knowledge of what Mar Roxas and the LPs are doing. The best proof of this is that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to pursue all that has been said against Binay. To say that De Lima is not getting orders from Malacañang insults our intelligence. Binay should realize that there is a need for a true political opposition to act as a counter-balance against the abuses of the Aquino administration, especially in misusing the people’s money. All things considered, Binay is the man to lead the opposition.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Mar’s great feat   

OCT 21 ---President Noynoy Aquino keeps talking about a “lost decade,” a long period of time and plentiful opportunity which supposedly disappeared during the previous administration. For someone who’s only wasted four years so far and who’s only been contracted to lose six in all, Aquino sounds a tad envious that his predecessor had that much time to supposedly throw away doing nothing; it’s possible he wants six more years so he can waste more time than the President who went before him did. Seriously, I am reminded of Aquino’s continued yammering about a decade lost when he praised his chief errand boy, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, last week for growing the business process outsourcing industry during the latter’s stint as trade and industry secretary in the Arroyo years. Aquino didn’t say Roxas invented call centers – or even mention Gloria Arroyo – but Mar (and Mar alone, it seems) was responsible for their tremendous growth.

“Perhaps some of you here today can still remember the turning point,” Aquino told a gathering of industry leaders. “Then Secretary of Trade and Industry Mar Roxas took notice of the massive potential of your sector, reached out to industry leaders and launched an organization whose purpose was to convince global companies to invest in the Philippines’ [business process outsourcing] sector.”  The rest, according to Aquino (and to him alone, if I might add), is business history. The industry “has gone from success to success, and the transformation over the last decade has been staggering.”  Of course, Aquino never said that Roxas was working for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the time he supposedly single-handedly turned around the BPO industry. For starters, that would destroy Aquino’s narrative that all of the Arroyo years were lost.

Besides, mentioning that his favorite subordinate was also Gloria’s subaltern before would take away some of the credit from Roxas for practically building up the now-ubiquitous call centers, which was Aquino’s intention. It was a not-so-neat trick, that of acknowledging Roxas’ work while conveniently forgetting that he was just another Cabinet member taking orders from a President, whose administration should really get the credit for good things that happened during its watch. It’s as if all the infrastructure that Ferdinand Marcos built – and for which he is still being praised for to this day – was actually the brainchild and handiwork of his public works minister, a certain Baltazar Aquino (no relation, I think, to the current President).

Now, this Marcos-era Aquino may have been one hell of a minister, but the reason why no one remembers him today is because he did not and really cannot take credit for the infrastructure that was built during Marcos’ term. It’s the same thing with Roxas, who was never known during all his Cabinet stints – in the Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino administrations – as a self-starter and innovator. Under this government, Mar may have proven to be a competent driver, rice sack-carrier, traffic enforcer and even carpenter; but giving him credit for building an entire industry that basically grew itself (with some push from the Arroyo, not the Aquino, government) is plain and simple nonsense. * READ MOIRE...

ALSO the Pope recently: A year of discernment  

OCT 21 ---This is the last of a series of columns I am writing on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. In the first column, I quoted what Pope Francis said on the eve of this Synod, with its challenging and complex theme of how the Catholic Church can better address the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization: “The Synodal assemblies don’t serve to discuss beautiful or original ideas, or to see who’s the most intelligent one... They serve to care for and maintain better the Lord’s vineyard, to cooperate in his dream, in his project of love for his people.”  In the second column, published a week ago, I discussed the issues that the Synod was going to faced – in essence the situation of families all over the world, especially those marriages and relationships which needed special attention. I wrote then that given contemporary realities, the Roman Catholic Church has to look for a better approach to the global crisis of the family in the several form it expressed itself – whether in addressing divorce, same sex unions, contraception, and families separated by poverty and migration.

Finally, in the last column, I summarized the midterm report released on Monday, noting that it was still to be discussed and finalized, in the second week of the Synod. That report, preliminary as it was, elicited many reactions because of the openness that permeated it in the way it approached specially the pastoral care of gay and lesbian Catholics and divorced and remarried Catholics. While many welcomed the spirit of mercy in the document, others were upset that the doctrine of the Church on these issues were not emphasized. Truth versus mercy was the framing of the media of this debate. Last Sunday, the 2014 Synod had a fitting culmination with the mass beatifying Pope Paul VI. Before that, the final report of the Synod was released which the liberal media characterized as a watered-down version of the draft document. In one report published in Rappler, the headline was striking in essence saying that there were “jeers” for the Synod for not going far enough (even the milder language on welcoming homosexuals and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics did not get the 2/3 vote that signify consensus) but “cheers” for the Pope for his openness.

What the media forgot is that this report is not yet the final document as this will now go to the faithful for discernment in the year ahead until October 2015 when the leaders of the Church come together again for next year’s Synod. At that time, important recommendations could be made, on which basis Pope Francis could make momentous decisions. At the end of all of this, whether there is 2/3 majority vote or not, the Vicar of Christ will have to make a decision. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Captain Backfire

MANILA, OCTOBER 27, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Manila Standard Today | Oct. 21, 2014 at 12:01am - IN what should be the perfect time to show the people that he could be the best next leader of this country, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II once again showed he is all talk and little else.

Last week, during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the earthquake in Central Visayas that left more than 200 dead, Roxas scolded the mayors of the province of Bohol for failing to implement rehabilitation projects despite the availability of funds.

We would have agreed with the secretary. One year is one year, and people deserve no less from their government than to put them back on their feet after a disaster at the soonest possible time. That local executives have failed at this basic task is cause for anger and indignation.

But we find out that the national government turned over P2.4 billion to the provincial government for rehabilitation of infrastructure and other buildings damaged by the quake only in June this year. Worse, we now hear that the mayors had not been able to submit their rehabilitation details and programs of works because the DILG itself only issued the guidelines for the program called Bohol Earthquake Assistance on August 1.

Local chief executives are supposed to follow, and strictly, these guidelines, such that earlier submission are said to have been returned to the mayors for lack of attachments.

Roxas, then, would have nobody to blame but his own agency for failing to release the guidelines that would allow local leaders to gain access to rehabilitation fund.

From the way he talked, though, it appeared he had done everything in his power for the people of Bohol, leading him to feel entitled to scold the mayors who knew firsthand what they needed but not how they could immediately get their plans under way.

* The secretary has displayed such an attitude in many other instances, descending upon various troubled places as the face of the national government, acting like he knew exactly what do and then berating the local leaders for their failure.

It is no secret that Secretary Roxas wants nothing more than to become president of the country. The harder he tries to project an image of competent leader, however, the less he succeeds. Talking down to others, just like the privileged class used to do to the peasants, will no longer do.

This is an age when constructive engagement and people-centered governance should take precedence over all other brands of leadership.

There is a valley of a difference between a boss and a genuine leader. One screams at his men: “Go!” while the other rallies them and says “Let’s go!”

Roxas has shown us he can be boss. From what we have seen, however, it is difficult to imagine him as a true leader.

Subverting the budget By Manila Standard Today | Oct. 27, 2014 at 12:58am

WHILE the Aquino administration pounds its political enemies over allegations of corruption, it is quietly trying to slip the biggest illegal diversion of funds in history under our very noses. Its accomplices in this plunder are the malleable members of Congress, who cannot be counted upon to constitute a quorum on ordinary days, but who think nothing of railroading bad legislation through the mill if the correct palms are greased.

The legislation in question is none other than the P2.606 trillion national budget for 2015, which, if the administration gets its way, will have 100 pages of changes—deviously disguised as “errata”—that the majority of lawmakers never examined or debated before the General Appropriations Act was passed on second reading.

Those among us who take the legislative process seriously are compelled to ask: How can Congress pass a law when it has not examined it, much less debated on it? Where is the careful deliberation of how public funds are spent?

The administration claims the errata merely correct typographical errors in the budget document, yet it has done nothing to dispel the impression that the changes are more substantive, and are aimed at giving President Benigno Aquino III wide discretion to shuffle public funds around, regardless of the original intent of Congress.

In particular, one such change would enable the President to impound funding for congressionally approved programs as early as the first quarter of the budget year, and to transfer these funds to other projects of his choosing. While this provision would cloak the President with some semblance of legality, nothing will hide the blatant violation of the Constitution that such an act would entail, subverting as it does the legislative power of the purse, and all but obviating the constitutionally ingrained separation of powers.

* To make matters worse, the administration has tried to inject these changes in the most underhanded manner imaginable, first submitting them through the Department of Budget and Management just a few hours before the plenary debates. When this underhanded tactic was exposed by some opposition lawmakers, it withdrew the changes and worked to get them approved by a select subset of the House committee on appropriations instead.

Remarkably, the titular minority leader who was a member of this select panel, did not deem it worthwhile to share a copy of the errata with members of his bloc who were most vocal about the changes.

Can we, as the administration would have us do, believe that the clerical staff of the DBM is so inept that it can make 100 pages of typographical errors on such an important document? We suggest that given this administration’s shoddy record with the Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, that these changes are of a more substantive nature and would subvert and corrupt the budgeting process. They must be opposed at every step.

Flip, flop, flip By Jojo Robles | Oct. 23, 2014 at 12:01am

They appear to have gotten it right the first time. Then they said they got it all wrong, before they declared again this week that they were right all along and probably never should have bothered anyone to begin with.

So now, the Department of Energy has told Congress that there will, in actual fact, be no power supply crisis, which will mean no emergency powers for President Noynoy Aquino, which will in turn mean no Congress action granting him those powers. The way this government is run—and the way our legislators are only too willing to go along with any cockamamie proposal from Malacañang, like granting Aquino emergency powers—continues to amaze.

My own belief is that we should all be prepared for a power supply shortage next year, anyway. After all, you never know when those fools at the energy department will change their minds again – or find some new excuse for claiming that they have always been correct when things go wrong.

Scant attention was paid to DoE’s presentation before the House committee on energy last Monday of its first detailed projections of the power situation for the coming year – and rightly so, given the flip-flopping of that department on the matter. The embarrassing presentation revealed that the actual supply shortage for 2015 would amount to around 31 megawatts, equivalent to a one-hour rotating brownout a week and limited to the first two weeks of April alone.

While the revelation hardly justified granting emergency powers to the President—and the spending of P6 billion to P10 billion to purchase power, by most estimates—DoE had a great excuse: it required 700 megawatts of power on reserve at all times, for emergencies such as power plant breakdowns, for example, which was why it had come to Congress seeking emergency powers to allow Aquino to contract the supply beforehand.

Congress (which had never seriously questioned why the broad powers for Aquino were required) was unimpressed. They were apparently all too ready to grant Aquino the powers he sought, but how could they give them to him when his own energy department now says that it could not really have the justification for seeking them?

“I was an all-out supporter [of the emergency powers proposal] but today, it seems that the DoE has to convince me more to maintain my support on this recommended authority,” said Malacañang ally Rep. Henry Oaminal. “The only reason we’re rushing this up is so we can beat the deadline for contracting or leasing additional generating capacity,” a clearly irritated Rep. Reynaldo Umali said.

* Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is no palace suck-up, summed it up well: “DOE has been painting the wrong picture in the last few months. It’s only now that you’re saying that this is an issue of reserves, and this reserve will only be used during outages. All the while the supply is more than the demand based on your [own] statistics.”

It was telling that Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla—who first said the power supply was stable, then turned around and sought emergency powers for Aquino because of an impending crisis—did not even go to Congress to say that he and his department were grossly mistaken. Petilla, like a good politician, only sent his subordinates to do the dirty work of apologizing-but-not-really for him.

* * *

But it’s still true, despite the world-beating incompetence of Petilla and his DoE, the shameless brown-nosing of Congress and the very likely attempt to grab commissions from purchasing power that motivated the entire emergency powers bid, that a power crisis could take place next year. But, per usual, the private sector (which will shoulder most of the burden and which knows it cannot rely on government for anything, really) has already been long preparing for it. Through the Interruptible Load Program or ILP, major private users of power have already agreed to use their own generating units during peak demand hours, thus lessening demand from our aging power plants when it is highest.

ILP is an initiative of the Manila Electric Co. and has secured the voluntary participation of big consumers like SM malls in the project but the threat of power plant breakdowns—which are really a given because of the age of our current plants—is still a major concern. There is little that distribution entities like Meralco and end-users like SM can do about supply-side issues, which really should be addressed by government and the power-generating companies.

The Malaya breakdown-prone thermal plant, for instance, can run on full capacity and its operators should not be allowed to get away with the excuse of not running because of economic reasons. Especially when those economic reasons are the possible impact of running the plant on the bonuses of some top officials.

If government—specifically that incompetent department run by that incompetent energy secretary—wants to make a difference in the power situation, it should take seriously its responsibility of reprimanding and penalizing the generation companies that do not provide adequate supply, especially in the summer months. Or it can keep warning of crisis situations and seek emergency powers— only to back off again for reasons that not even Petilla, in all likelihood, knows.

An imminent breakaway  By Emil Jurado | Oct. 23, 2014 at 12:01am



For more than four years since President Aquino came to power, I have been asking friends why he hates his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so much. He lambasts her on any occasion and calls her nine years in power “the lost decade”.

I cannot think of any reason except that Mr. Aquino wants to prove here at home and before the whole world that he is serious about his straight-path mantra.

He went as far as to cause the impeachment, conviction and ouster of her Chief Justice.

But with this reform agenda, I wonder what the President is doing about his allies implicated in so many anomalies.

The answer is nothing.

* * *

At the rate the Liberal Party attack dogs of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas and President Aquino are pursuing a well-scripted and well-orchestrated demolition job against Vice President Jejomar Binay, the breakaway of Binay from the Aquino administration may come sooner than expected. Even a veteran politician like Binay can only take so much.

I included the President as part of the cabal out to demolish the chances of Binay in becoming the next President in 2016 because I cannot believe he has no knowledge of what Mar Roxas and the LPs are doing.

The best proof of this is that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to pursue all that has been said against Binay. To say that De Lima is not getting orders from Malacañang insults our intelligence.

Binay should realize that there is a need for a true political opposition to act as a counter-balance against the abuses of the Aquino administration, especially in misusing the people’s money.

All things considered, Binay is the man to lead the opposition.

* Binay, despite his ties to some members of the President’s family, must acknowledge his crucial role in all this.

History tells us that in a democracy, there must always be assent and dissent. Without this,an authoritarian government becomes inevitable.

When will this breakaway happen? I’m not a crystal gazer, but it may come before the year ends.

* * *

Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Emilio “Jun” Abaya wants to buy out the MRT 3 private stakeholders for P54 billion. But where will he get that kind of money since the 2016 national budget doesn’t provide the funds?

The P54 billion that Abaya is talking about has to be a loan. And if it will be a loan, who will pay for it? We tapayers will bear the brunt.

To make matters worse, government as we know is the worst manager.

It’s bad enough that the frequent, almost daily, glitches of MRT 3 are causing frustration among the more than half a million people taking it every day.

Now, what Abaya wants is to buy out MRT 3 with our money so that he will have full control of it.

What’s happening to MRT 3 is simple. The DOTC has a maintenance provider below-standard. Who was responsible for it? Was it former DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas, or Jun Abaya?

We need a better maintenance provider. Better still, we need a new DOTC secretary.

* * *

The House of Representatives Energy Committee, inquiring into the need for President Aquino to have emergency powers to negotiate supply contracts with power producers without the benefit of publc bidding, has decided more or less that there’s no need for this after all.

Despite this, the Aquino administration remains adamant for such emergency powers, seeking P6 billion to ensure an additional 300 MW to avoid blackouts. However, the energy department itself has come out with findings that with what is known as ILP or Interruptible Load Program, large private power consumers can use their own generators when supply is low.

Since the private sector has committed no less than 847 MW under the ILP with a usuable capacity of 593 MW, there will be a thin supply for a possible one-week rotating blackouts.

* * *

I said in a previous column that nothing could make Alphaland Corp. Chairman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin happier than the delisting of Alphaland by the Philippine Stock Exchange. Now it is a private corporation.

As a private company without PSE’s capricious rules, Alphaland can now operate at will and pursue its other projects.

Mar’s great feat  By Jojo Robles | Oct. 21, 2014 at 12:01am

President Noynoy Aquino keeps talking about a “lost decade,” a long period of time and plentiful opportunity which supposedly disappeared during the previous administration. For someone who’s only wasted four years so far and who’s only been contracted to lose six in all, Aquino sounds a tad envious that his predecessor had that much time to supposedly throw away doing nothing; it’s possible he wants six more years so he can waste more time than the President who went before him did.

Seriously, I am reminded of Aquino’s continued yammering about a decade lost when he praised his chief errand boy, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, last week for growing the business process outsourcing industry during the latter’s stint as trade and industry secretary in the Arroyo years. Aquino didn’t say Roxas invented call centers – or even mention Gloria Arroyo – but Mar (and Mar alone, it seems) was responsible for their tremendous growth.

“Perhaps some of you here today can still remember the turning point,” Aquino told a gathering of industry leaders. “Then Secretary of Trade and Industry Mar Roxas took notice of the massive potential of your sector, reached out to industry leaders and launched an organization whose purpose was to convince global companies to invest in the Philippines’ [business process outsourcing] sector.”

The rest, according to Aquino (and to him alone, if I might add), is business history. The industry “has gone from success to success, and the transformation over the last decade has been staggering.”

Of course, Aquino never said that Roxas was working for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the time he supposedly single-handedly turned around the BPO industry. For starters, that would destroy Aquino’s narrative that all of the Arroyo years were lost.

Besides, mentioning that his favorite subordinate was also Gloria’s subaltern before would take away some of the credit from Roxas for practically building up the now-ubiquitous call centers, which was Aquino’s intention. It was a not-so-neat trick, that of acknowledging Roxas’ work while conveniently forgetting that he was just another Cabinet member taking orders from a President, whose administration should really get the credit for good things that happened during its watch.

It’s as if all the infrastructure that Ferdinand Marcos built – and for which he is still being praised for to this day – was actually the brainchild and handiwork of his public works minister, a certain Baltazar Aquino (no relation, I think, to the current President). Now, this Marcos-era Aquino may have been one hell of a minister, but the reason why no one remembers him today is because he did not and really cannot take credit for the infrastructure that was built during Marcos’ term.

It’s the same thing with Roxas, who was never known during all his Cabinet stints – in the Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino administrations – as a self-starter and innovator. Under this government, Mar may have proven to be a competent driver, rice sack-carrier, traffic enforcer and even carpenter; but giving him credit for building an entire industry that basically grew itself (with some push from the Arroyo, not the Aquino, government) is plain and simple nonsense.

* As for losing years of your life, perhaps Aquino will be surprised to learn that every Metro Manila motorist or commuter can sympathize with what he’s talking about because millions for people feel that getting around the gridlocked metropolis gives them a chance to work on their very own personal lost decade, one hellish day at a time. Then again, if Aquino can say that traffic congestion is a sign of economic progress instead of official ineptitude, then he can very well claim that Mar grew the call center industry.

And yes, according to his fans, this is “the best President we ever had.” If only he were as good at accomplishing something that he can claim as his own as he was at revising history to make himself and his favored flunkies look good, he’d be the best President in the entire world, maybe.

* * *

Vice President Jejomar Binay supposedly sought an audience with President Noynoy Aquino recently in part because Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had joined what was once a purely political exercise, the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s investigation into Binay’s alleged corruption and supposed ill-gotten wealth. But even more disturbing than the “deployment” of De Lima, an official of the Executive, in the hatchet job being performed on Binay is her declaration that the Vice President “must prove that his accusers are lying.”

Now, if this is not the worst travesty of justice ever committed by De Lima (and she’s perpetrated quite a few), it must be in the Top Five, at least. Last I checked, anyone accusing someone else of any crime shoulders the burden of proving his accusations, not the person who’s being accused.

This is, Ms. De Lima, what is known as the presumption of innocence – an unfamiliar concept to you, I know, but protected by the Constitution, nonetheless. Binay – or anyone accused of a crime, for that matter – does not need to prove his innocence; those accusing him, on the other hand, must prove his guilt.

No wonder Binay ran to Aquino. But, after Aquino steps down in 2016, who will De Lima run to, to save herself after all the crazy things she did as Aquino’s justice secretary?

A year of discernment By Dean Tony La Viña | Oct. 21, 2014 at 12:01am

This is the last of a series of columns I am writing on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. In the first column, I quoted what Pope Francis said on the eve of this Synod, with its challenging and complex theme of how the Catholic Church can better address the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization: “The Synodal assemblies don’t serve to discuss beautiful or original ideas, or to see who’s the most intelligent one... They serve to care for and maintain better the Lord’s vineyard, to cooperate in his dream, in his project of love for his people.”

In the second column, published a week ago, I discussed the issues that the Synod was going to faced – in essence the situation of families all over the world, especially those marriages and relationships which needed special attention. I wrote then that given contemporary realities, the Roman Catholic Church has to look for a better approach to the global crisis of the family in the several form it expressed itself – whether in addressing divorce, same sex unions, contraception, and families separated by poverty and migration.

Finally, in the last column, I summarized the midterm report released on Monday, noting that it was still to be discussed and finalized, in the second week of the Synod. That report, preliminary as it was, elicited many reactions because of the openness that permeated it in the way it approached specially the pastoral care of gay and lesbian Catholics and divorced and remarried Catholics. While many welcomed the spirit of mercy in the document, others were upset that the doctrine of the Church on these issues were not emphasized. Truth versus mercy was the framing of the media of this debate.

Last Sunday, the 2014 Synod had a fitting culmination with the mass beatifying Pope Paul VI. Before that, the final report of the Synod was released which the liberal media characterized as a watered-down version of the draft document.

In one report published in Rappler, the headline was striking in essence saying that there were “jeers” for the Synod for not going far enough (even the milder language on welcoming homosexuals and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics did not get the 2/3 vote that signify consensus) but “cheers” for the Pope for his openness.

What the media forgot is that this report is not yet the final document as this will now go to the faithful for discernment in the year ahead until October 2015 when the leaders of the Church come together again for next year’s Synod. At that time, important recommendations could be made, on which basis Pope Francis could make momentous decisions. At the end of all of this, whether there is 2/3 majority vote or not, the Vicar of Christ will have to make a decision.

* We might get a sense of the thinking of Pope Francis from his final address to the Synod when he described what the Catholic Church is:

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.”

In the homily he delivered during the beatification mass for Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis also reflected on the Gospel reading - “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” - emphasizing that this passage calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – “that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other”. The Pope continues: “This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises. God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”!”

Concluding this homily and the Synod, Pope Francis then recalled that it was Pope Paul VI who established the Synod of Bishops: “When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!”

In my last column, I said that I did not how the Synod will end, but for sure, and I repeat that now, The Lord has a plan and the Church and the faithful must trust that the Spirit is at work here. And so onward to the year of discernment!


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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