INQUIRER EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL: 'WANG-WANG' LIVES 

OCT 31 --PHOTO PHILSTAR EDITORIAL CARTOON 2010 --Aquino made the promise in line with his theme of good, equitable governance, upholding the rule of law, leveling the playing field and creating a society where no one enjoys undue advantage. “Walang lamangan, walang padrino, at walang pagnanakaw. Walang wang-wang, walang counter-flow, walang tong,” he said, vowing to put an end to thievery, patronage, petty extortion, the use of sirens and traffic counter-flow. --Everyone beware: If a VIP and his backup guards are on the road, it’s your duty to recognize that there’s a VIP nearby and it’s your obligation to get out of his way. If you fail, it’s your fault. The VIP’s vehicle is entitled to muscle you off the road, and the bodyguards are empowered to draw their firearms just in case you didn’t get the message the first time around.

This is the “wang-wang” mentality on steroids. How many times have we seen its brazen display? The old style was for VIPs to be escorted by cops on motorcycles with bright, blinking lights, accompanied by loud sirens. Today’s new style is supposedly more civilized, more subtle. No “wang-wang” or hazard lights, just VIPs whose backup vehicles tail them closely, and who will bully motorists who, in the maze of Manila’s traffic, find themselves on the wrong lane at the wrong time. In the latest incident on Congressional Avenue in Quezon City last Monday, the bodyguard verbalized it so eloquently: “Pu–ng ina nyo! Hindi nyo nakita may ine-escort kami?”

The family that got in the convoy’s way suddenly had the burden to recognize them as VIPs! And so what? Did that mean the family—and everyone else—should yield? And for what offense? For driving too close to them, even if it was they who actually pushed their way dangerously close? What gives these VIPs the right to treat public thoroughfares like their private fiefdom? What makes them think they can swerve in and out of traffic, jeopardizing the safety of hapless motorists and pedestrians? From whence comes the effrontery? * READ MORE...

ALSO Opinion by Jose Ma. Montelibano: No one cared enough

I was so stunned by Senator Grace Poe giving a privileged speech about the hunger and malnutrition stalking 15 million children in the Philippines. Privileged speeches are nothing new. Nor is the hunger and malnutrition that the senator mentioned. What is new is that a senator mentioned it at all. The hungry might have just gotten lucky, for once. Everybody wants to talk about so many things, especially the petty ones. But that which has long begged for attention is not usually the topic of great debates, even by the most noisy and holier-than-thou in social media. In fact, only SWS with its regular quarterly surveys on hunger incidence and the self-rated poverty of Filipinos have kept such grave issues barely alive. I cannot say enough about what SWS has done.

By doing the surveys and sharing the results with the country, it will end up be the biggest hero against hunger and poverty – simply by keeping the issue alive. The latest report of 55 percent of Filipino families rating themselves as poor is not the worst, not the best. For decades, there has been a range that, somehow, all administrations cannot seem to get out of. I remember once that it hit 61 percent, and also 49 percent. Most of the time, it stays in between. For decades. But who cared? Who cares? Who cares enough to understand that this is not only a matter of statistics but a national shame, a curse that stains our collective soul? By the sound and fury directed towards hunger and poverty, no one cares. Government says that it does. And it does. But not enough, not anywhere enough. At least, not enough to rethink its policies of decades that have not mitigated hunger incidence and self-rated poverty outside of lucky and unexplainable surges.

Yes, I have seen hunger incidence at 21 percent, and also at 15 percent. But when the numbers drop, no one can explain it. And no one can explain it when the numbers go up again. You know why? Because no one cared enough. That is why I was so pleasantly amazed that Senator Poe, like a grace of graces, stood up and gave the issue of hunger and poverty among our people the top billing in her privileged speech. It took a neophyte national official to see what everybody else in government seems to be blind to – that the whole effort against hunger doesn’t work, has never worked. It took her to question the recurring failure that everybody took for granted as normal. Why? Maybe, this amateur politician simply cares. * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: A heritage of dust 

OCT 20 --For most ordinary folk, the fate of old buildings is of little concern. Why fret over crumbly structures gathering rodents and illegal settlers when they can be torn down to make way for, say, a new mall, a parking lot, a wider road? Which might explain why the Department of Public Works and Highways thought nothing of tearing down 33 old houses, some a century old, to give way to a road-widening project in Palo, Leyte. The houses and the municipal library—also earmarked for demolition—have historical significance, the owners of the threatened houses said in their appeal to the DPWH. Thankfully, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has intervened, issuing a letter to the DPWH that cited the library’s importance as a cultural property. But while the library has been spared, the houses would have to be torn down for encroaching on the right of way of the road-widening project, according to the DPWH.

What would it take for the DPWH to appreciate the significance of heritage houses and sites to a country’s identity? Why the haste to obliterate the past, as if it must be scrubbed out before we can move forward? It does not help that groups tasked to conserve our cultural heritage don’t even agree on the very definition of historical and cultural significance. Take the Admiral Hotel on Roxas Boulevard, now reduced to ruins because the NHCP had not researched its response thoroughly when asked about the building’s significance. In its letter-response last January, the NCHP said the building had no historical significance but suggested that it be developed for adaptive reuse. Another letter and, later, a cease-and-desist order came in late September from the NHCP, acknowledging “the Old World charm of the building that might be found worthy of conservation or protection.” But by then, the Admiral Hotel had already been gouged on orders of the Manila City Hall. Dismaying was the finger-pointing that ensued among the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the NHCP, and the National Museum on the question of what is the head agency responsible for heritage sites and buildings. * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Protect the children  

NOV 3 --PHOTO FROM THE GLOBALINITIATIVES.COM --The start of the year was marked by a horrendous report. In the isolated village of Ibabao in Cebu a child pornography ring was operating, with parents roping their own children into the sordid business. Inside their homes, parents were directing their children—and even their neighbors’—in sex acts recorded by webcam for sale on the Internet to foreign pedophiles. To keep the ring constantly running, the adults locked the children in. But a series of raids disrupted the operation; a number of adults were arrested and the children were rescued, aged 3, 9 and 11. But the operation was hardly unique. Throughout the year, authorities conducted raid after raid in such other provinces as Cavite and Davao. At one point, the president of a school in Muntinlupa was arrested for harboring a group that sold child porn online.

Child porn is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. Online child abuse, as shown in the “cottage industries” in the provinces, is a hugely profitable enterprise. But “there is no interest in [viewing] child pornography in our culture,” Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa, director of the Philippine National Police’s anticybercrime unit, said last January. “So it is mostly production [of child porn videos that is being done here].” And what may come as a shock to those born yesterday is the willingness of parents and guardians themselves to sell their own children for sure profit. Authorities have been unequivocal in calling for an end to the business of child porn in the country. Sosa announced, also last January, that in the Philippines, cyberpornography was worse than the trade in illegal drugs: “It is now the No. 1 crime in our country. We have to act on this. We are the origin, the source,” he said, adding that Filipino child porn creators earn big money from pedophiles overseas, sometimes making as much as P4,500 per hour for videos streamed online. Malacañang declared war on the online porn industry in the country, particularly child porn, that same month. “We don’t want to be identified as a haven [for pedophiles],” Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was quoted as saying. * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Sure, investigate Drilon   

MOV 2 ---After a former ally filed plunder charges against Senate President Franklin Drilon, two Cabinet secretaries and other officials last Wednesday, on the allegation that the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) under construction was grossly overpriced, the senator gave a forceful and immediate response. He called the charges “malicious and baseless,” and recalled that he had already filed libel charges against his accuser, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada. “It is obvious that this complaint has absolutely no basis,” Drilon said. That may be, but given the circumstances, the Senate blue ribbon committee should feel compelled to also investigate the charges. What we have heard so far from senators asked about the possibility of a Senate inquiry into corruption allegations against its own chief, however, has been remarkably tepid.

“If someone files a resolution, why not? There are members of the minority who can do that—Senator JV [Ejercito], Senator Nancy [Binay]. That should be heard, and the committee should be as assiduous,” said administration ally Sen. Francis Escudero in a radio interview. “If a resolution is filed about the ICC, it should be lined up at the blue ribbon committee,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters. “But remember, it’s not a matter of filing, you have to have evidence there.”  But the truth is, the committee can conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation moto propio—that is, on its own accord, without need for a pro-forma resolution from a member of the opposition. Again, given the circumstances, it should initiate an inquiry with dispatch. What are these circumstances, exactly? First, a subcommittee has been conducting hearings into similar allegations, that the Makati City Hall Building II, begun when Vice President Jejomar Binay was still city mayor, is grossly overpriced.

(These hearings, where Cayetano has played a prominent and sometimes dominant role, have since grown in scope, following the trail of sometimes controversial evidence alleging Binay’s unexplained wealth.) Second, the Makati building was built by the same contractor behind the Iloilo center: Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. Third, the subcommittee investigating alleged corruption by Binay, chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, has based its progress mostly on the evidence offered by former members of Binay’s inner circle. Mejorada used to be close to Drilon; Mejorada used to run day-to-day operations in the Senate President’s home province, and once ran Drilon’s Facebook account. And as Drilon himself acknowledged, he knew Mejorada well enough for Mejorada to ask him for political favors. Last, but certainly not least, Drilon is a stalwart of the Aquino administration, and thus a symbol of the administration’s anticorruption self-identity, the so-called “tuwid na daan.” The straight path means not engaging in corrupt acts, and also prosecuting the corrupt with the full force of the law. * READ MORE...

ALSO: People want to hear VP Binay, not his gatecrashers  

NOV 3 ---By Neal Cruz ---Now it is clear why Vice President Jejomar Binay does not want to relinquish the presidency of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP)—he has been president of the BSP for more than 20 years already, the longest-serving BSP president: He wants to grab the 57.7-hectare jamboree site that the BSP has leased (for one peso) from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB). The lease expires next year. Officials of UPLB revealed that there were at least three attempts by Binay’s allies in Congress to grab part of the 4,244-hectare Makiling forest reserve. The latest attempt was made by his daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, who filed House Bill No. 6352, or the “Boy Scouts of the Philippines Charter of 2012.” There is no explicit mention of the Makiling property in HB 6352, but it has the same intent as two other bills. One, HB 4765, “an act vesting the (BSP) with jurisdiction and administration over a parcel of land located at Mt. Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, to be known as the Boy Scouts of the Philippines Jamboree Site…” was filed in 2001.

The other, HB 3005, filed in 2005, contained similar provisions. Both bills were authored by former Marikina representative and now Mayor Del de Guzman, a known ally of Binay. One of these three bills was almost passed. It had been quietly railroaded to a third and final reading in the House when UPLB officials were tipped off by a House employee who happened to be a UPLB alumnus. If not for him, that part of the UPLB campus would now be another “Binay hacienda.” Obviously, the ambition of Binay when he was still “poor” was to be an hacendero. He pursued that ambition as soon as he became a public official (as mayor of Makati). Details of how he apparently acquired the 350-hectare “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario, Batangas, are slowly coming out in the investigation being conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee chaired by Sen. Koko Pimentel. Credit should be given to Pimentel for his courageous and expert handling of the investigation and to Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV for their dogged pursuit of the truth.

If not for these three, the investigation would be over by now, and Binay and his family would be laughing as they enjoy the luxuries of Hacienda Binay in Batangas and the other Hacienda Binay in UPLB. The other senators seem afraid of Binay (who may, God forbid, become president of the Philippines), and are not participating in the investigation. The pressure on the subcommittee to stop the investigation is daunting. Pimentel’s fair treatment of the resource persons is commendable. He constantly explains to the witnesses, “Para maging malinaw lang tayo,” or “Linawin lang natin” (Let’s make it clear) to avoid any impression of deliberately confusing or deceiving the public—as the Binay camp seems to be trying to do.  It would be pointless to stop the investigation of Binay who constantly refuses to directly answer the allegations against him and his family. The public should not be denied the right to be informed of the alleged illegal activities of the second highest official of the land, who wants to go even higher and become president. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

‘Wang-wang’ lives


PHILSTAR EDITORIAL JULY 2, 2010; Aquino made the promise in line with his theme of good, equitable governance, upholding the rule of law, leveling the playing field and creating a society where no one enjoys undue advantage. “Walang lamangan, walang padrino, at walang pagnanakaw. Walang wang-wang, walang counter-flow, walang tong,” he said, vowing to put an end to thievery, patronage, petty extortion, the use of sirens and traffic counter-flow.

MANILA, NOVEMBER 3, 2014 (INQUIRER) Everyone beware: If a VIP and his backup guards are on the road, it’s your duty to recognize that there’s a VIP nearby and it’s your obligation to get out of his way. If you fail, it’s your fault. The VIP’s vehicle is entitled to muscle you off the road, and the bodyguards are empowered to draw their firearms just in case you didn’t get the message the first time around.

This is the “wang-wang” mentality on steroids. How many times have we seen its brazen display? The old style was for VIPs to be escorted by cops on motorcycles with bright, blinking lights, accompanied by loud sirens. Today’s new style is supposedly more civilized, more subtle. No “wang-wang” or hazard lights, just VIPs whose backup vehicles tail them closely, and who will bully motorists who, in the maze of Manila’s traffic, find themselves on the wrong lane at the wrong time.

In the latest incident on Congressional Avenue in Quezon City last Monday, the bodyguard verbalized it so eloquently: “Pu–ng ina nyo! Hindi nyo nakita may ine-escort kami?” The family that got in the convoy’s way suddenly had the burden to recognize them as VIPs! And so what? Did that mean the family—and everyone else—should yield? And for what offense? For driving too close to them, even if it was they who actually pushed their way dangerously close?

What gives these VIPs the right to treat public thoroughfares like their private fiefdom? What makes them think they can swerve in and out of traffic, jeopardizing the safety of hapless motorists and pedestrians? From whence comes the effrontery?

* We sound the alarm over all forms of road rage at this time of year, starting with the All Saints Day weekend all the way to the frenzy of the Christmas holidays. Remember the 1998 All Saints Day traffic altercation at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina, where a pregnant woman was shot and killed, and her two-year-old son injured.

Expect even worse traffic in the months to come.

But the Monday incident on Congressional Avenue is no ordinary road rage fueled by gridlock. It is rage displayed by hired guns, whether they are a government security detail or private bodyguards. It is rage inoculated from accountability by the power of the VIP being “escorted.” These VIPs are convinced they are above the law—and their bodyguards behave accordingly.

This is the shameless, unabashed flaunting of power on public roads by public servants living off the public coffers, by bullying the very public whose taxes pay for their lavish lifestyles.

How to deter these abusive VIPs, their bodyguards, and their convoys? The first problem of victims is how to trace the offending vehicles, and the Philippine National Police and Land Transportation Office must be ready and equipped to help in the search. Already, in the Congressional Avenue case, one vehicle’s car plates had been “switched” from another vehicle. The government must strictly enforce the rule that every vehicle must bear car plates or conduction stickers. Indeed, the government must finally do away with vanity plates that are actually badges of privilege.

Also, the victims must be assisted in identifying the offending bodyguards. The government, to its credit, has centralized the assignment of the security detail of senior officials. Surely their logbooks will show whether or not government security personnel were involved, and who among them were on duty at the time.

Law enforcers must also help victims secure the available CCTV security videos in the area and the cell phone records of all the suspects during the relevant time.

And we call upon Mayor Patrick Meneses of Bulacan, Bulacan, whose family’s vehicles have been linked to the Congressional Avenue incident, to come out and answer questions. That is the burden of public power, and the burden of having guards who have guns. People are allowed to carry guns only for their defense. When those guns are brandished for aggression, they lose any moral claim to carry guns. The backup vehicle is registered to Meneses’ kin. It had two passengers—the driver and the bodyguard. To conceal their identities is to take part in a cover-up.

On Congressional Avenue, after the family shouted to the gun-toting bodyguard that two children were in the car, did he back down because he suddenly developed a conscience? Well, suffice it to say that right before he boarded the backup vehicle, he turned around and flashed the dirty finger at the family, including the woman on the front seat and her 5-year-old and 6-year-old granddaughters in the back.

That is the contempt with which he, his masters and their ilk hold the rest of us who simply want to live quiet lives.

No one cared enough Jose Ma. Montelibano @inquirerdotnet 12:30 AM | Friday, October 31st, 2014


Jose Ma. Montelibano

I was so stunned by Senator Grace Poe giving a privileged speech about the hunger and malnutrition stalking 15 million children in the Philippines. Privileged speeches are nothing new. Nor is the hunger and malnutrition that the senator mentioned. What is new is that a senator mentioned it at all. The hungry might have just gotten lucky, for once.

Everybody wants to talk about so many things, especially the petty ones. But that which has long begged for attention is not usually the topic of great debates, even by the most noisy and holier-than-thou in social media. In fact, only SWS with its regular quarterly surveys on hunger incidence and the self-rated poverty of Filipinos have kept such grave issues barely alive. I cannot say enough about what SWS has done. By doing the surveys and sharing the results with the country, it will end up be the biggest hero against hunger and poverty – simply by keeping the issue alive.

The latest report of 55 percent of Filipino families rating themselves as poor is not the worst, not the best. For decades, there has been a range that, somehow, all administrations cannot seem to get out of. I remember once that it hit 61 percent, and also 49 percent. Most of the time, it stays in between. For decades. But who cared? Who cares? Who cares enough to understand that this is not only a matter of statistics but a national shame, a curse that stains our collective soul?

By the sound and fury directed towards hunger and poverty, no one cares. Government says that it does. And it does. But not enough, not anywhere enough. At least, not enough to rethink its policies of decades that have not mitigated hunger incidence and self-rated poverty outside of lucky and unexplainable surges. Yes, I have seen hunger incidence at 21 percent, and also at 15 percent. But when the numbers drop, no one can explain it. And no one can explain it when the numbers go up again. You know why? Because no one cared enough.

That is why I was so pleasantly amazed that Senator Poe, like a grace of graces, stood up and gave the issue of hunger and poverty among our people the top billing in her privileged speech. It took a neophyte national official to see what everybody else in government seems to be blind to – that the whole effort against hunger doesn’t work, has never worked. It took her to question the recurring failure that everybody took for granted as normal. Why? Maybe, this amateur politician simply cares.

* But because she is Grace Poe, her speech carried a special sting to it, reminding me of a great insight so popularly taught in communications a long time ago – that the medium is the message. So one privileged speech by her quickly merited an assurance by government that it is ready to work with her on the issue. I think, though, there was a misunderstanding somewhere. I don’t think the senator said she knew the answers, that, in fact, she knew of none. And why the speech? So those who are responsible for addressing, mitigating and eliminating hunger especially, can for once admit that they don’t have the answers, that they don’t have the policies, that they don’t have the programs that work.

But government has the resources, not for everything, but more than enough to ease hunger incidence if it wants. Maybe, Senator Poe should have questioned why a consistent failure has never been questioned, opened to public debate and cause enough to invite public participation in its resolution. Let me share a little about what I learned from school. When no one questions, it is usually because no one cares enough about the subject matter.

Maybe, the culture of mediocrity has simply taken over public service. Worse, those who can help have developed a comfortable level of apathy. I believe it is both. I believe that government has failed because it never cared enough, and I believe Filipinos have failed each other, because the more fortunate never cared enough for the less fortunate. Not government, not the Church, not civil society. And this is why a curse is upon us, this is why our progress as a people and a nation will always have serious interruptions. Life, or God, cannot bless us with success when we don’t care enough.

We don’t know who is in charge of addressing hunger among our people. We don’t even know if there is a specific program against hunger. Does anyone know? Does anyone ever remember that a national program, or a national group, was established and mandated to fight hunger? If there was, excuse me, it must have been a well-kept secret.

On the other hand, I believe government has failed because the people have failed their own. If the PDAF and the DAP were dismantled by the sheer power of passion, then it points out clearly, and sadly, that those who cared enough about the PDAF and the DAP did not care enough about the hunger of millions. And maybe government had to fail so we, the people, will not, so we, the people, can take matters into our own hands to feed the hungry among us. And if the moral challenge has been launched to stop our tolerance of corruption and to each be the prime example of the honest, why not the more urgent and humane obligation to stop our tolerance of hunger, and feed our hungry?

It may be best if Senator Grace Poe can reach out to the people instead. Maybe, government is not going to wake up from failure and find the answers by itself. It has become too defensive, has spent too much money, yet has not mitigated hunger. But the people have not tried, and they should. The people, after all, are the country, are the first government. The people must also be the first to care.

I read this recently, from concerned citizens, a beautiful saying. “Hunger stops when caring begins.”

A heritage of dust Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 AM | Thursday, October 30th, 2014


Some families in Palo, Leyte who are still in the process of repairing their homes, which got damaged when Typhoon Yolanda hit in 2013, may end up losing their homes altogether.PHOTO COURTESY OF MANILA.COCONUTS.CO By Coconuts Manila October 21, 2014 / 20:18 PHT

For most ordinary folk, the fate of old buildings is of little concern. Why fret over crumbly structures gathering rodents and illegal settlers when they can be torn down to make way for, say, a new mall, a parking lot, a wider road?

Which might explain why the Department of Public Works and Highways thought nothing of tearing down 33 old houses, some a century old, to give way to a road-widening project in Palo, Leyte.

The houses and the municipal library—also earmarked for demolition—have historical significance, the owners of the threatened houses said in their appeal to the DPWH.

Thankfully, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has intervened, issuing a letter to the DPWH that cited the library’s importance as a cultural property. But while the library has been spared, the houses would have to be torn down for encroaching on the right of way of the road-widening project, according to the DPWH.

What would it take for the DPWH to appreciate the significance of heritage houses and sites to a country’s identity? Why the haste to obliterate the past, as if it must be scrubbed out before we can move forward?

It does not help that groups tasked to conserve our cultural heritage don’t even agree on the very definition of historical and cultural significance. Take the Admiral Hotel on Roxas Boulevard, now reduced to ruins because the NHCP had not researched its response thoroughly when asked about the building’s significance.

In its letter-response last January, the NCHP said the building had no historical significance but suggested that it be developed for adaptive reuse. Another letter and, later, a cease-and-desist order came in late September from the NHCP, acknowledging “the Old World charm of the building that might be found worthy of conservation or protection.”

But by then, the Admiral Hotel had already been gouged on orders of the Manila City Hall. Dismaying was the finger-pointing that ensued among the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the NHCP, and the National Museum on the question of what is the head agency responsible for heritage sites and buildings.

Under such ambiguous terms of accountability have centuries-old structures, Art Deco buildings and other heritage sites been reduced to dust, when it is precisely culture and character that stoke community pride and, not incidentally, bring in the tourists. (New Orleans’ French Quarter, Kyoto’s preserved wooden shop houses, and Vigan’s cobblestone streets easily come to mind as immediately evoking another, more genteel, time.)

We rant and rally whenever a building rife with history comes face to face with the wrecking ball, with the government coming in too late to confront private interests touting progress and development.

This was how the Jai Alai building, one of Asia’s finest Art Deco buildings, came to grief on orders of then Mayor Lito Atienza, who had promised a Hall of Justice in its place. (Nothing came of that promise.)

The Mehan Garden, parts of the Arroceros Forest Park, the movie houses on Escolta have also kissed the dust.

But whoever said that heritage and progress are irreconcilable? One need only look at Vigan to see how adaptive reuse has turned its Antillean houses into charming shops that bring in the tourists and extra income to the town.

As well, Intramuros’ Walled City provides a historic setting to new buildings in the area that, according to a local ordinance, must be designed to conform to the architecture of the era.

And why leave the initiatives to the private sector? Government agencies, especially those tasked with overseeing cultural properties, also have a leadership role to play. Start with defining each agency’s turf to prevent overlapping of responsibilities and the subsequent blame game when things go wrong.

Give them enough funds and resources to visit threatened heritage sites and assess their cultural values before developers cast a moist eye on them.

Revisit the National Cultural Heritage Act, and check if the agencies enforcing it have enough teeth to go after big developers and other public officials who may have sanctioned demolition jobs.

Educate the public on how heritage and history bring a distinct character to a community and a certain charm that could, in turn, revitalize the local economy.

Pride of place and having visual reminders of previous glory also stitch a community together. A tour of old buildings and an overview of their significance can be a good way to jump-start cultural and national pride among young students, instead of those now-usual field trips to malls.

On a pragmatic and ecological level, preserving old structures means saving on construction cost and trimming down our carbon footprint. Why cut down more trees for lumber when you can repaint or spruce up standing structures?

Protect the children Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:09 AM | Sunday, November 2nd, 2014


PHOTO FROM THE GLOBALINITIATIVE.COM

The start of the year was marked by a horrendous report. In the isolated village of Ibabao in Cebu a child pornography ring was operating, with parents roping their own children into the sordid business. Inside their homes, parents were directing their children—and even their neighbors’—in sex acts recorded by webcam for sale on the Internet to foreign pedophiles. To keep the ring constantly running, the adults locked the children in. But a series of raids disrupted the operation; a number of adults were arrested and the children were rescued, aged 3, 9 and 11.

But the operation was hardly unique. Throughout the year, authorities conducted raid after raid in such other provinces as Cavite and Davao. At one point, the president of a school in Muntinlupa was arrested for harboring a group that sold child porn online.

Child porn is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. Online child abuse, as shown in the “cottage industries” in the provinces, is a hugely profitable enterprise. But “there is no interest in [viewing] child pornography in our culture,” Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa, director of the Philippine National Police’s anticybercrime unit, said last January. “So it is mostly production [of child porn videos that is being done here].” And what may come as a shock to those born yesterday is the willingness of parents and guardians themselves to sell their own children for sure profit.

Authorities have been unequivocal in calling for an end to the business of child porn in the country. Sosa announced, also last January, that in the Philippines, cyberpornography was worse than the trade in illegal drugs: “It is now the No. 1 crime in our country. We have to act on this. We are the origin, the source,” he said, adding that Filipino child porn creators earn big money from pedophiles overseas, sometimes making as much as P4,500 per hour for videos streamed online.

Malacañang declared war on the online porn industry in the country, particularly child porn, that same month. “We don’t want to be identified as a haven [for pedophiles],” Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was quoted as saying.

* Now the Department of Justice is adding pressure on the criminals by asking the telecommunications firms to block online child porn. “We’re coming up with a filtering software… [but] because of the volume (of child sex abuse content], it is not humanly possible to do it,” Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy, who leads the DOJ’s cybercrime office, told reporters. According to Sy, “it has to be something that’s automated, an available algorithm,” so that if a certain site banned worldwide is shown, that site should not be accessed.

So far, no telco is cooperating with the DOJ initiative, Sy said, adding that this was simply wrong, that the telcos could not claim to be powerless in this situation. “They cannot say, ‘Oh, we just provide the network, whatever happens in terms of content, we no longer have control,’” he said. “That’s not true… There’s no reason why you allow [child pornography] to pass through your system. It’s like you just provide a bulletin board and whatever is put there, you no longer have any say. That’s not right.” But he said he expected the telcos to soon comply with the DOJ request.

The public should add its voice to the call for the telcos to cooperate with the DOJ’s cybercrime office. The scourge of child porn needs urgent solutions, including multiagency efforts. After all, the Philippines is one of the 54 signatories to the 2012 initiative called the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse.

To protect the children, to stamp out this vicious crime that preys on the innocent with impunity and for which the Philippines has become notorious, it will take everyone working together—the government, telcos, civil society organizations, educators, parents and guardians. The swift arrest and guaranteed punishment of the perpetrators are imperative, as is the provision of means of livelihood in rural areas. As a critical step in the right direction, an education campaign must be mounted to rid men and women of the perverse rationalization that children are commodities they own and available for them to do with as they please.

Sure, investigate Drilon Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 AM | Monday, November 3rd, 2014

After a former ally filed plunder charges against Senate President Franklin Drilon, two Cabinet secretaries and other officials last Wednesday, on the allegation that the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) under construction was grossly overpriced, the senator gave a forceful and immediate response. He called the charges “malicious and baseless,” and recalled that he had already filed libel charges against his accuser, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada. “It is obvious that this complaint has absolutely no basis,” Drilon said.

That may be, but given the circumstances, the Senate blue ribbon committee should feel compelled to also investigate the charges. What we have heard so far from senators asked about the possibility of a Senate inquiry into corruption allegations against its own chief, however, has been remarkably tepid. “If someone files a resolution, why not? There are members of the minority who can do that—Senator JV [Ejercito], Senator Nancy [Binay]. That should be heard, and the committee should be as assiduous,” said administration ally Sen. Francis Escudero in a radio interview.

“If a resolution is filed about the ICC, it should be lined up at the blue ribbon committee,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters. “But remember, it’s not a matter of filing, you have to have evidence there.”

But the truth is, the committee can conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation moto propio—that is, on its own accord, without need for a pro-forma resolution from a member of the opposition. Again, given the circumstances, it should initiate an inquiry with dispatch.

What are these circumstances, exactly? First, a subcommittee has been conducting hearings into similar allegations, that the Makati City Hall Building II, begun when Vice President Jejomar Binay was still city mayor, is grossly overpriced. (These hearings, where Cayetano has played a prominent and sometimes dominant role, have since grown in scope, following the trail of sometimes controversial evidence alleging Binay’s unexplained wealth.) Second, the Makati building was built by the same contractor behind the Iloilo center: Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. Third, the subcommittee investigating alleged corruption by Binay, chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, has based its progress mostly on the evidence offered by former members of Binay’s inner circle. Mejorada used to be close to Drilon; Mejorada used to run day-to-day operations in the Senate President’s home province, and once ran Drilon’s Facebook account. And as Drilon himself acknowledged, he knew Mejorada well enough for Mejorada to ask him for political favors.

Last, but certainly not least, Drilon is a stalwart of the Aquino administration, and thus a symbol of the administration’s anticorruption self-identity, the so-called “tuwid na daan.” The straight path means not engaging in corrupt acts, and also prosecuting the corrupt with the full force of the law.

* For these reasons, the Senate blue ribbon committee should live up to its name, as the committee on accountability of public officers and investigations, and hold the Senate President to account. And precisely because Drilon said the charges were just plain ridiculous, he should welcome the inquiry. Is Mejorada’s basic arithmetic fundamentally wrong? Then a hearing should make that clear. Is Mejorada’s main contention, that Drilon was involved in Hilmarc’s winning of the bid, untrue? Then a hearing should leave no one in doubt.

Above all, is Mejorada’s claim that Drilon is not walking the straight path a politically motivated fabrication? Then Drilon and other administration allies committed to the tuwid na daan should demonstrate exactly what straight means: Let the fight against corruption be fought on both sides of the political fence. The evidence Binay most needs to exonerate him in the court of public opinion lies in the Senate’s failure to investigate an administration leader on exactly the same charges, under exactly the same circumstances.

People want to hear VP Binay, not his gatecrashers Neal H. Cruz @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:10 AM | Monday, November 3rd, 2014


BINAY

Now it is clear why Vice President Jejomar Binay does not want to relinquish the presidency of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP)—he has been president of the BSP for more than 20 years already, the longest-serving BSP president: He wants to grab the 57.7-hectare jamboree site that the BSP has leased (for one peso) from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB). The lease expires next year.

Officials of UPLB revealed that there were at least three attempts by Binay’s allies in Congress to grab part of the 4,244-hectare Makiling forest reserve. The latest attempt was made by his daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, who filed House Bill No. 6352, or the “Boy Scouts of the Philippines Charter of 2012.” There is no explicit mention of the Makiling property in HB 6352, but it has the same intent as two other bills.

One, HB 4765, “an act vesting the (BSP) with jurisdiction and administration over a parcel of land located at Mt. Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, to be known as the Boy Scouts of the Philippines Jamboree Site…” was filed in 2001. The other, HB 3005, filed in 2005, contained similar provisions. Both bills were authored by former Marikina representative and now Mayor Del de Guzman, a known ally of Binay. One of these three bills was almost passed. It had been quietly railroaded to a third and final reading in the House when UPLB officials were tipped off by a House employee who happened to be a UPLB alumnus. If not for him, that part of the UPLB campus would now be another “Binay hacienda.”

Obviously, the ambition of Binay when he was still “poor” was to be an hacendero. He pursued that ambition as soon as he became a public official (as mayor of Makati).

Details of how he apparently acquired the 350-hectare “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario, Batangas, are slowly coming out in the investigation being conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee chaired by Sen. Koko Pimentel. Credit should be given to Pimentel for his courageous and expert handling of the investigation and to Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV for their dogged pursuit of the truth. If not for these three, the investigation would be over by now, and Binay and his family would be laughing as they enjoy the luxuries of Hacienda Binay in Batangas and the other Hacienda Binay in UPLB. The other senators seem afraid of Binay (who may, God forbid, become president of the Philippines), and are not participating in the investigation.

The pressure on the subcommittee to stop the investigation is daunting. Pimentel’s fair treatment of the resource persons is commendable. He constantly explains to the witnesses, “Para maging malinaw lang tayo,” or “Linawin lang natin” (Let’s make it clear) to avoid any impression of deliberately confusing or deceiving the public—as the Binay camp seems to be trying to do.

It would be pointless to stop the investigation of Binay who constantly refuses to directly answer the allegations against him and his family. The public should not be denied the right to be informed of the alleged illegal activities of the second highest official of the land, who wants to go even higher and become president.

* It is comforting that Senators Cayetano and Trillanes, unlike the other senators, are as determined as Pimentel to expose the truth on how the Binays amassed their wealth. The efforts of the three senators should not be wasted since public money is involved and the hearings must continue until the truth comes out.

Binay is doing everything except face the Senate to defend himself. He goes everywhere delivering speeches during which he repeats, like a broken record, that the corruption allegations are “only politics,” but refuses to answer them point by point. His four mouthpieces are doing the same thing, creating plenty of noise only but saying nothing to explain how the Binays acquired their immense wealth.

Binay challenged Senator Trillanes to a debate and when the latter accepted it, he got cold feet and he is now trying to find excuses to avoid it. His mouthpiece, Rep. Toby Tiangco, claims he is trying to dissuade Binay not to go through with the debate.

Binay said that if it is the blue ribbon mother committee that would invite him he would attend the investigation. So the mother committee’ chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, sent him an invitation, but now he is hemming and hawing and has not indicated, until now, if and when he is going to the Senate investigation.

But while Binay refuses to show himself in the Senate, his two noisy mouthpieces, Tiangco and JV Bautista, tried to gatecrash the investigation last Thursday. The two have got it wrong: The senators wanted to hear their boss, not them, so they were quietly escorted out the door.

Mr. Vice President, the people want to hear you explain how you acquired your unexplained wealth. Don’t hide behind your mouthpieces. They only create noise, nothing else.
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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