PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK

PHILSTAR OPINION: Malampaya fund investigation

DEC 2 --by Ernesto Maceda ---The Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the Malampaya Fund scam was held yesterday, with Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan as first resource person. Pulido-Tan revealed several anomalies, especially with the P900 million released through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The COA audit showed that the P900-million DAR fund was released upon request of 97 mayors. Sixty-seven mayors denied they signed any request. According to Pulido-Tan, the DAR funds were released actually through 12 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, which cornered P900 million in royalties from the Malampaya gas fund. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO Economic performance: Flagging 

DEC 2 --By Alex Magno ---Growth in the third quarter dropped to 5.3%, much lower than anyone expected. By every reasonable forecast, we are not going to meet the lower-end GDP target of 6.5% for 2014. Instinctively, the Aquino administration looked for a scapegoat to blame. It found the wrong one. Palace spokesmen tried to pin the blame for the drastic drop in the growth rate on the Supreme Court ruling the “disbursement allocation program” (DAP) unconstitutional. During oral arguments before the Court, however, government lawyers argued that the DAP was completed in the first half of 2013. Either government was lying before the Court or the spokesmen are now lying about our economy. When pinning the blame on the Supreme Court began backfiring, the Palace tried another tack. They tried blaming the flagging third quarter 2014 numbers on a typhoon that happened a year before. They must be double counting agricultural losses attributable to the calamity. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO from Quarantine to 'Noy heckling': Dumb, dumber, dumbest

DEC 3 --By Marichu A. Villanueva  ---After completing the 21-day quarantine period and isolation in Caballo Island in Cavite, the 133 Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia will finally be reunited with their respective families hopefully starting today. Since no one has manifested any symptoms of the deadly disease, both health and military authorities were confident none among them contracted the Ebola virus. The peacekeepers, composed of 108 Air Force personnel, 24 policemen, and a jail officer, were placed on 21-day quarantine upon their arrival last November 13. Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, official spokesman for the Department of Health (DOH) earlier said all peacekeepers are in good health and have not shown any sign of Ebola virus infection. This, even as three of the peacekeepers got sick and sent authorities into fits of scare frenzy. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO Cebu traffic: DPWH’s incompetence and lack of urgency

DDEC 2 --By Bobit S. Avila  ---Last Friday, Metro Cebu experienced a Manila-style traffic congestion that started at 5:30 p.m. and literally dispersed around 10 p.m. Sure everyone dismissed this as the expected Friday rush hour, plus with the Christmas season practically here already, yes traffic will only get worse. I have always warned our fellow Cebuanos, especially our Cebuano political leaders that if we do not make our move or noise… Metro Cebu will have a Manila-like traffic congestion and we got a taste of it last Friday. But I’m not one who easily dismisses these things as part of our forthcoming Christmas season or even that Friday being a payday. After all, my many years as chairman of Cebu City Traffic Operations & Management (CITOM) from 2000 to 2005, which doesn’t include my years as director of this traffic group (I was an unpaid volunteer to help my beloved Cebu City) has taught me that Cebu City has the huge advantage over Metro Manila for the simple reason that traffic gets dispersed right away because the villages or subdivisions within Metro Cebu are less than five kilometers away from the center of the city. READ FULLL COLUMN...

ALSO: Real automated election 

DEC 5 --By Jose C. Sison ---The forthcoming elections in 2016 is only the third time we will have an automated elections, but there are still some doubts on whether the system really serve its purpose of ensuring that we have an honest, peaceful and orderly elections. These doubts remain mainly because of many incidents arising after the previous elections in 2010 and 2013 that somehow affect the credibility and correctness of the results with the use of the same Smartmatic PCOS machines. And so up to now, the burning issue is still whether or not these machines are indeed reliable in determining the real choice of the electorate. This is still the issue simply because there are those who keep on vehemently insisting that there is nothing wrong with the machines despite the alleged “glitches” found during the previous elections. They disagree with the findings of IT experts that these machines are defective and prone to manipulations. They say that the PCOS are reliable in giving out fast and accurate results of the election and that these alleged “glitches” are just isolated incidents and do not affect the overall outcome of the voting and counting. Thus they even defend the Comelec’s decision to purchase from Smartmatic Inc. 82,000 additional machines for use in 2016. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO: Time to get serious in the fight vs corruption

DEC 4 --By Bobit S. Avila ---I first read this stunning story on Facebook about that United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and Transparency International report, which I saw on YouTube with the commentator saying “The Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the most corrupt democratic country.” Yes, this official report can be seen on YouTube! How could the Philippines get this embarrassing statement from the UN? Worse, the UNCAC issued a threat that the Philippines could lose its membership in the UN if we don’t fix our problems with corruption specifically on the pork barrel. Ouch! If you read your history, the Philippines was one of the original signatories that created the UN and never was there a moment in our history that the UN warned the Philippines that we could lose our membership for any reason. But I’m glad that the UN made this threat because corruption has become a way of life for decades already, with our politicians getting rich and the majority of Filipinos falling below the poverty line! It’s obvious to us that UN officials haven’t bought the Aquino propaganda (called Daang Matuwid) that they are in the midst of this fight against corruption, where President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III uses the incarceration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the removal of former Chief Justice Renato Corona as his best examples. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO: No substitute for preparedness  

DEC 7 --By Babe Romualdez ---The thought of another super typhoon slamming the country following the same path as Typhoon Yolanda was like a nightmare to the survivors, who could not believe that Mother Nature could be so mean and so cruel. Even CNN weather forecasters were astounded, showing the initial path Typhoon Ruby (international codename Hagupit) would traverse is almost exactly the same path that Yolanda traveled coming from the western Pacific Ocean, cutting a swath across the Visayas and the Bicol regions with predictions that it could also pass through Metro Manila and Southern Luzon. A forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency even categorized Typhoon Ruby’s intensity as “violent.” By this time, it’s become obvious that the lessons of Yolanda have sunk deep into the consciousness of Filipinos, and we were glad to see President Aquino himself taking the lead in the preparations that began as early as Thursday when news about Ruby broke. At the NDRRMC meeting where key government agencies were gathered, the president told officials that he would not take excuses, grimly warning that failure to prepare would be unforgivable.


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Malampaya fund investigation

MANILA, DECEMBER 8, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 2, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


By Ernesto M. Maceda

The Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the Malampaya Fund scam was held yesterday, with Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan as first resource person.

Pulido-Tan revealed several anomalies, especially with the P900 million released through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The COA audit showed that the P900-million DAR fund was released upon request of 97 mayors. Sixty-seven mayors denied they signed any request.

According to Pulido-Tan, the DAR funds were released actually through 12 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, which cornered P900 million in royalties from the Malampaya gas fund.

Chairman Pulido-Tan revealed that P173 billion has been collected by the Malampaya, with only P42 billion actually released, including P6.8 billion to the Department of Agriculture.

There is supposed to be a balance of P130 billion in the National Treasury.

Janet-Lim Napoles will be invited to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee subsequent hearings of the Malampaya scam.

Big GDP drop

Following the surprise drop in the third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) due to weak public spending, economists and fund managers have downgraded their Philippine economic forecast this year to below 6 percent, putting at risk President Aquino’s goal of boosting the nation’s annual expansion to a record by 2016.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan reported a disappointing 5.3 percent economic growth in the third quarter of 2014.

The third-quarter expansion was well-below analysts’ expectations, with a Reuters poll of economists forecasting annual growth at 6.6 percent, the slowest since the 4.0 percent in the last quarter of 2011.

Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Corp. (HSBC) economist Trinh Nguyen said their GDP growth forecast for 2014 full year growth is 5.9 percent and 2015 expansion is 6.1 percent while ING Bank Manila senior economist Joey Cuyegkeng said that they expect GDP to expand by 5.8 percent, despite a positive outlook on the fourth quarter this year.

Maybank Kim Eng chief economist Luz Lorenzo said government under-spending was one of the major drags this year.

This is true of the delayed release of rehabilitation and recovery funds for Yolanda-hit areas. It was only last week that shelter assistance of P30,000 for destroyed houses and P10,000 for damaged houses were released partly in Tacloban.

Also contributing to the underspending are the anomalies relating to Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds, which did not go to actual projects.

The government has consistently failed to meet its monthly spending target since Aquino administration took office in 2010, especially after the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Another cause of the drop of GDP to 5.3 percent is the big drop in the agriculture sector which contracted by 2.7 percent. It is now doubly clear that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has failed miserably at his job. It is time to appoint Francis Pangilinan full-time Secretary of Agriculture.

The 5.3 percent GDP result for the third quarter is a major setback for the government economic program and will increase unemployment.

Government spending expected to normalize only next year and more modest expectations for private consumption in 2016, owing to the national elections.

“Expect the private sector to maintain our robust performance. Government will have adjusted to the new protocols, and we see this in the most recent preliminary data coming from the Department of Budget and Management. The reconstruction assistance in Yolanda-affected areas is already gaining traction,” Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, who remained optimistic despite the disappointing GDP, said.

The Philippines aims to increase its GDP by 8.5 percent when President Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Many economists disagree.

Unfair to ONA, public, Garin

Malacañang announced that Health Secretary Enrique Ona is on extended leave. This is unfair to Secretary Ona and the general public. It is also causing friction among pro-Ona health department employees and anti-Ona groups.

Even Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin is limited in her actions, because if and when Ona returns, Ona can revoke Garin’s decisions.

President Aquino should let Ona go.

Considering how badly Ona has been treated by the President, it is now appropriate for him to submit an irrevocable resignation.

More killings

A female Marine officer, 1st Lieutenant Shelina Calumay, was shot dead inside her car, which was parked in front of the Jurado hall inside the Bonifacio Naval Station.

Another ambush, Macario Perez, head teacher of the Gregorio Sison Memorial Elementary School in Ibaan, Batangas, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Rosario town.

A municipal councilor, Wilfredo Nuñez Jr., was found dead in Tanza, Cavite.

A male person was shot dead by a riding-in-tandem in Sampaloc, Manila.

Ma. Theresa Bernardita Locsin, a haciendera of sugarcane plantation, was shot dead by one of three men who robbed her at gunpoint in Negros Occidental.

Tidbits

Ousted Governor ER Ejercito expressed anger toward President Aquino for the unfair treatment that he and his relatives have been getting from him.

Some high-ranking officials at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City were helping convicted drug lords run the illegal-drugs trade from inside the national penitentiary, according to a source.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has submitted the final version of the P23-billion supplemental budget requested by Malacañang, with a reduction of P1.3 billion.

Congratulations to Ambassador Henrietta “Tita” de Villa on her conferment of the Degree Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa, by Colegio San Juan de Letran.

Ebola death toll has jumped to 6,928.


Flagging FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 2, 2014 - 12:00am 0 125 googleplus0 3


By Alex Magno

Growth in the third quarter dropped to 5.3%, much lower than anyone expected. By every reasonable forecast, we are not going to meet the lower-end GDP target of 6.5% for 2014.

Instinctively, the Aquino administration looked for a scapegoat to blame. It found the wrong one.

Palace spokesmen tried to pin the blame for the drastic drop in the growth rate on the Supreme Court ruling the “disbursement allocation program” (DAP) unconstitutional. During oral arguments before the Court, however, government lawyers argued that the DAP was completed in the first half of 2013. Either government was lying before the Court or the spokesmen are now lying about our economy.

When pinning the blame on the Supreme Court began backfiring, the Palace tried another tack. They tried blaming the flagging third quarter 2014 numbers on a typhoon that happened a year before. They must be double counting agricultural losses attributable to the calamity.

If Aquino’s spokesmen were a little smarter, they should have tried blaming China for our miserable third quarter economic performance. The slowdown in China’s economic growth pulled down economic numbers across the region. This spin might have gained them a little more traction.

A close examination of the economic figures, however, demonstrates the drop in our economic growth performance is self-inflicted.

Perhaps, “self-inflicted” is not the right phrase to use. More precisely, the drop in the growth rate was inflicted on the people, especially the poor, by a diffident and incompetent government.

Two factors most explain the drop in our growth rate: a 2.3% drop in our agricultural output and a 2.3% drop in public spending.

Our agricultural department, if you haven’t noticed, is a two-headed hydra. Proceso Alcala, the glib Secretary of Agriculture who somehow managed to convince his unsophisticated president that the country would be rice self-sufficient by 2013, is apparently busy collecting plunder cases. Francis Pangilinan, a.k.a. Presidential Adviser on Agricultural Modernization, controls the large public corporations dealing with farming and commodity trading.

After the latest GDP growth figures were released, neither of the two stepped forward to explain why our agricultural sector was contracting so dramatically. It seems, in fact, the two have conspired to disappear.

On the matter of government underspending, Budget Secretary Butch Abad offered some lame explanation that goes something like this: the allotments were released by his office but apparently not spent by the agencies.

That lame explanation does not tell us why, when public money is channeled through something indecent such as the DAP, it disappears as fast as fecal matter when the toilet is flushed. When properly budgeted and allocated, the process somehow jams.

Why is it that when DAP funds are given to build something like the Iloilo Convention Center, it is spent promptly? When money is allocated to add road space or improve health services or build new infra, nothing happens.

I served the Cory presidency. I served the Ramos presidency. I cooperated with the Estrada presidency. I worked for the Arroyo presidency. The most important lesson I learned through all these is that the bureaucracy is pretty much like a nail: if it is not hammered, it does not sink.

If the President does not impose deadlines, constantly check on programs and follow up on the agencies, nothing happens. We have a bureaucratic culture where no one goes to jail for doing nothing. Trying to do too much could invite a case at the Ombudsman.

The chronic bureaucratic inertia is overcome only by constant presidential monitoring. Our bureaucratic culture is hard on the chief executive. If the president does nothing, nothing happens.

President Aquino has been accused of many things, but never of working too hard. Reports awaiting urgent presidential decision sit at the Office of the President for months without action.

Meanwhile, Aquino constantly whines about how hard his job is.

How long, for instance, did it take the President to decide on what to do with the Calax bidding? The investment priorities for 2014 were finally approved by the Office of the President only in late November. By this time, we should be drawing up the investment priorities for 2015.

How long, for instance, did it take Aquino to fire Ruffy Biazon as Customs Commissioner? For many months, we saw dreadful numbers suggesting smuggling was the fastest growing section of our economy.

What exactly is our economic strategy? What key sectors will be given priority and what inter-agency plan is there to support those priorities?

In every other speech, Aquino speaks vaguely about “reforms” pursued by his administration. To this day, on the twilight of the this presidential term, we still do not know exactly what those “reforms” are.

The Trade Secretary is laid back. The Transport Secretary and the Energy Secretary seem constantly befuddled. The Interior Secretary seems busy working on his name recall.

Meanwhile, port congestion takes out hundreds of millions in lost business opportunities. The peril of power shortages led to the postponement of investment decisions. The yawning infra gap that hampers economic growth remains unaddressed.

Modern economies, while they are largely driven by market forces, rely heavily on the ability of government to catalyze development, enable market to perform better, remove hindrances to expansion.

This might sound paradoxical: modern market economies perform at their best only if government is adept. Red tape stifles growth. Timely policy responses accelerate it.

The latest UN study shows the Philippines to be the most corrupt democratic country in the world. The other more corrupt countries than ours are tyrannies.

When our economic performance begins to flag, government has to take all the blame — the better to make the corrections.


Dumb, dumber, dumbest COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 3, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Marichu A. Villanueva


After completing the 21-day quarantine period and isolation in Caballo Island in Cavite, the 133 Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia will finally be reunited with their respective families hopefully starting today. Since no one has manifested any symptoms of the deadly disease, both health and military authorities were confident none among them contracted the Ebola virus.

The peacekeepers, composed of 108 Air Force personnel, 24 policemen, and a jail officer, were placed on 21-day quarantine upon their arrival last November 13.

Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, official spokesman for the Department of Health (DOH) earlier said all peacekeepers are in good health and have not shown any sign of Ebola virus infection. This, even as three of the peacekeepers got sick and sent authorities into fits of scare frenzy.

A few days after they were taken to Caballo island, a peacekeeper was airlifted to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City due to fever and chilling. He was later diagnosed as suffering from malaria. Another peacekeeper was airlifted to a hospital in Quezon City after complaining of chest pain. The unnamed peacekeeper was brought to the AFP Medical Center for further examination. Later, another peacekeeper had to be isolated from the rest of his colleagues on Caballo because of sore throat.

Fortunately, none of these three cases was related to Ebola disease. No one else of the peacekeepers got sick until the end of the quarantine period yesterday.

Actually, they had previously undergone 21-day quarantine before they left Sierra Leone. Luy stressed, however, the quarantine after their return to the Philippines was an added precautionary measure to keep our country free from the Ebola virus. He echoed the government’s policy not to be complacent in dealing with Ebola.

But lo and behold! A few days after assuming office as DOH “acting” secretary, former Iloilo congresswoman now undersecretary Janet Garin brought along Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Pio Catapang to visit the peacekeepers in Caballo island. Up close and personally greeting the quarantined peacekeepers, Garin and Catapang joined them in Caballo island without wearing any personal protective gear.

After much flak for pulling this stunt, Gen. Catapang admitted it was the DOH idea to visit the quarantined peacekeepers. It might be a case of political naïvette on the part of Gen. Catapang to go along with the DOH idea to visit them while still under quarantine. But it was a dumb move, to be blunt about it.

Garin, as a doctor (as I gathered she is an OB-Gynecologist), should have known better to be prudent. She reportedly sought to justify the visit to Caballo as a way to supposedly remove the public stigma quarantined peacekeepers as potential Ebola virus carriers when they are not.

That’s precisely the purpose of the quarantine, to make sure not one of the peacekeepers may have brought back with him the deadly virus from Ebola-stricken Liberia. Whatever justification, a medical practitioner like Garin should be the last one to take chances on threats to public health.

But politics got the better of her. A card-bearing member of President Aquino’s ruling Liberal Party (LP), the “acting” DOH Secretary even dragged into her cheap political stunt the newly installed AFP chief of staff. So who’s dumb and dumber?

Stung by the bitter criticisms on the visit of quarantined peacekeepers, the leadership of the DOH and the AFP have now apparently gone their separate ways in handling this matter. In fact, the DOH has reportedly ordered last week the AFP to shut up and stop issuing statements regarding the quarantine of the four Filipino UN peacekeepers who were the last to return from Liberia. The four recently arrived peacekeepers, composed of two Air Force officials and two enlisted personnel, are still quarantined at the AFP Medical Center.

When DOH Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona went on official leave last October 28, President Aquino designated Garin to head the DOH on “acting” capacity. Gen. Catapang is more or less, also barely warming his new post. President Aquino appointed him AFP chief only last July 16.

A “heroes’ welcome” will all be accorded today to the peacekeepers now that they completed the 21-day quarantine period. Each of them will be awarded with the UN Service Medal for services rendered during their extended 11-month watch as UN peacekeepers in Liberia.

Yesterday, seven overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were previously employed as miners in Sierra Leone were directly brought to the Quarantine Office located near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where they would undergo 21-day quarantine. They were also previously quarantined for 21 days in Sierra Leone but Philippine officials required them to be quarantined for another 21 days to make sure no Ebola virus ever enters our country.

Keeping vigilant against possible entry of the Ebola virus is the smartest thing Philippine officials should strive to do. The dumbest thing that certain Philippine officials did was to prevent the entry into the country of nine Hong Kong journalists who reportedly “heckled” President Aquino while he was attending the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia last year.

This was another case of “dumb and dumber” act of Aquino administration officials involving Bureau of Immigration (BI) commissioner Siegfred Mison and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) headed by director-general Ariel Ontog.

The nine Hong Kong journalists figured in the foreign media interaction of President Aquino at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ summit held in Bali. Upon the recommendation made by NICA which classified the nine Hong Kong journalists as alleged “threats to public safety,” the BI blacklisted them from entry into country since June this year.

It only came to public knowledge when one of the Hong Kong journalists flew to Manila earlier this month but was barred entry. Naturally, the Hong Kong media reported this as related to the Philippine hosting of the 2015 APEC Leaders’ Summit. As the Philippines is the bulwark of press freedom in this part of the world, the BI-NICA booboo was a no-no. The two agencies lifted the blacklist but after public ridicule.

So these are the dumb, dumber and dumbest officials who are not funny at all but bungle their jobs all over the place.


DPWH’s incompetence and lack of urgency SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 2, 2014 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 1


By Bobit S. Avila

Last Friday, Metro Cebu experienced a Manila-style traffic congestion that started at 5:30 p.m. and literally dispersed around 10 p.m. Sure everyone dismissed this as the expected Friday rush hour, plus with the Christmas season practically here already, yes traffic will only get worse. I have always warned our fellow Cebuanos, especially our Cebuano political leaders that if we do not make our move or noise… Metro Cebu will have a Manila-like traffic congestion and we got a taste of it last Friday.

But I’m not one who easily dismisses these things as part of our forthcoming Christmas season or even that Friday being a payday. After all, my many years as chairman of Cebu City Traffic Operations & Management (CITOM) from 2000 to 2005, which doesn’t include my years as director of this traffic group (I was an unpaid volunteer to help my beloved Cebu City) has taught me that Cebu City has the huge advantage over Metro Manila for the simple reason that traffic gets dispersed right away because the villages or subdivisions within Metro Cebu are less than five kilometers away from the center of the city.

So last Sunday, with traffic very light, I went around to check where the choke points are… and lo and behold I saw it… in Mandaue City where somehow the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH) has a road widening project in AS Fortuna Ave. and H. Cortes St.

The road widening of AS Fortuna Ave. has been going on nearly for a year already with no end in sight. If you go around, you will see diggings along the whole stretch and on both sides of the road with no one working on it. Yes, we’ve already tasked Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes to demand that the contractors work faster to have this road done sooner…not later. Unfortunately our calls fell on deaf ears! Someone ought to crack the whip!

During my stint as Regional Development Council (RDC-7) infrastructure utilities chairman (IUC) especially when we had major road widening projects in Metro Cebu (yes, AS Fortuna Ave. was one of the roads we widened) called Metro Cebu Development Program (MCDP) 1,2 and 3, we never allowed any of our contractors to dig more than 200 meters. They had to dig and finish that 200 meters before they are allowed to dig or destroy the road sides so that the public would not be inconvenienced.

But then the convenience and safety of the motorist and riding public is never given any importance by the DPWH… we might as well rename DPWH as Department of Public Works & Hassle. While AS Fortuna is a major thoroughfare of Mandaue City, at the same time they are also working on H. Cortes St. which runs parallel to the Banilad-Talamban Road, which we have dubbed the “EDSA of Cebu.”

I passed by H. Cortes last Sunday and yes nearly 80% of the road works remain uncompleted. Worse, since it was a Sunday, no one was working on our roads. This is definitely a “No-No” if we were working on such vital roadways. Alas, the Philippines is still a third world country, hence DPWH engineers have a third world mentality. In most Western nations work on their vital roads go 24/7 night and day, including Sundays. But not here!

Clearly DPWH doesn’t really care and they are taking their sweet time in allowing their contractors to finish their job. In fact, thanks to DPWH’s transparency program, no one knows who the contractor of these road projects is. They could very well be “special or favored friends” of DPWH, many of them come from Metro Manila. I’ve asked many people who is the contractor of these projects and no one can tell me who.

At this point, we would like to make an appeal to DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson to visit Cebu and take a good look at these two roads so that he can be appraised that Cebuanos today are gravely inconvenienced because their contractor doesn’t care for us in Cebu. Mind you, we totally understand that old saying that before things get better, they have to get worse. But in this case… we are in our worse and it’s because DPWH officials just don’t care. How much more their contractors?

President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III always boasts about his reforms, and frankly speaking we don’t see where these reforms are. During the time of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, we already demanded reforms from the DPWH…but even back then they didn’t care to listen. This is the mentality or should I say the culture of DPWH then and now…that they don’t listen to complaints, that they are very secretive when it comes to their favorite contractors. Above all, the safety and convenience of motorists are never taken into consideration when they close major roads for repairs.

Today, Cebuanos are up in arms against the DPWH and they are blaming P-Noy for the incompetence. Let’s see what Sec. Singson can do for Cebu.


Real automated election A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 5, 2014 - 12:00am 1 5 googleplus0 0

The forthcoming elections in 2016 is only the third time we will have an automated elections, but there are still some doubts on whether the system really serve its purpose of ensuring that we have an honest, peaceful and orderly elections. These doubts remain mainly because of many incidents arising after the previous elections in 2010 and 2013 that somehow affect the credibility and correctness of the results with the use of the same Smartmatic PCOS machines.

And so up to now, the burning issue is still whether or not these machines are indeed reliable in determining the real choice of the electorate. This is still the issue simply because there are those who keep on vehemently insisting that there is nothing wrong with the machines despite the alleged “glitches” found during the previous elections. They disagree with the findings of IT experts that these machines are defective and prone to manipulations. They say that the PCOS are reliable in giving out fast and accurate results of the election and that these alleged “glitches” are just isolated incidents and do not affect the overall outcome of the voting and counting. Thus they even defend the Comelec’s decision to purchase from Smartmatic Inc. 82,000 additional machines for use in 2016.

Both sides to this hot issue seem to miss the point. Actually it is not about these machines used in automating our electoral process. It is more about whether the law providing for an automated election system (R.A. 9369) has been followed, particularly the safeguards ensuring the credibility of the figures churned out by these PCOS machines. Even if there are no defects in these machines, even if they perfectly reflect the true choices of our electorate, the automated election law which authorizes their use must still be observed. Using a perfect machine is not an excuse for violating the law allowing its use.

Apparently, there were violations of several sections of RA 9369 committed in the last two elections which up to now have not been denied or successfully refuted and disproven by the Comelec which purchased and used these machines.

First and foremost is Section 12 requiring a certified source code ensuring that the ballot of each voter will be read properly; that the votes will be counted correctly by the PCOS machines; that the results transmitted are not tainted with fraud; and that the compact flash (CF) cards in the machines will accurately record the data. Pursuant to this section, the Comelec should allow any interested political party and/or groups to review this source code. In fact the Supreme Court has already required the Comelec to furnish said code to a movement called Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) for purposes of review. But said decision has never been complied with.

Secondly, there was no complete and accurate information on whether a Random Manual Audit (RMA) has been conducted in two clustered precincts of each legislative district and the results thereof as provided in Section 29. Such report should have been submitted before the proclamation of winners. But in the last two elections so many winners were already proclaimed even before the RMAs have conducted and their results submitted. Without this complete information on the RMA, there is no way of finding out whether the machines correctly counted the votes, the magnitude of the breakdowns of the machines and the actual number of machines that successfully transmitted the results.

Third, in the May 3, 2010 final testing and sealing (FTS) of the machines, it was discovered that 72,000 compact flash (CF) cards contained erroneous data and had malfunctioned. There was also no accurate information on whether the new CF cards were correctly reconfigured to insure the correctness of the counting of votes and how many of the cards reached their destination before the election. It was not also known whether FTS were conducted in 73, 340 precincts nationwide.

The fourth violation refers to the digital signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors on the elections returns (ERs) transmitted to the Comelec. The ERs with the digital signatures are the legal bases for the proclamation of winners. But the Comelec has apparently dispensed with them in the 2010 elections. Its own website reveals that only summarized election returns were transmitted. In fact in the 2010 elections, the former Comelec Chairman already appeared on TV reading the first transmitted results at 6:30 p.m. when the polls are supposed to close at 7 pm..The Smartmatic machines at the National Canvassing Center also registered a highly excessive 153,902,003 number of voters when the actual figure was only 51 million.

Obviously these violations should have prompted our officials to discontinue using these machines instead of acquiring more of them and using them in the coming elections. They are also enough reasons for our election officials and the present government to review the present automated election system to give more teeth to the law so as to prevent these flagrant acts and omissions.

More importantly perhaps is to consider another automated system where the people’s right of suffrage will be properly exercised. It must be pointed out here that this right of suffrage can be truly exercised only if the people themselves fill out the ballots and write the names of the candidates they would like to elect. This is the core of the right of suffrage. They should be allowed to write their choices instead of the machines doing it for them.

But to insure a faster and more honest count of their votes, the machines can be used. The machines can ensure that once the voter has cast his vote it will already be counted and properly canvassed. There will be no more dagdag-bawas here. After all, the main purpose of automation is not to expedite the voting process but to know the accurate results faster where manipulations are no longer possible. In other words we should have a manual voting and an automated counting and canvassing. In fact this is the method used in Germany. And recently Australia has also discarded the e-voting system. We should follow suit.


Time to get serious in the fight vs corruption SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 4, 2014 - 12:00am 0 24 googleplus0 0


By Bobit S. Avila

I first read this stunning story on Facebook about that United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and Transparency International report, which I saw on YouTube with the commentator saying “The Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the most corrupt democratic country.” Yes, this official report can be seen on YouTube!

How could the Philippines get this embarrassing statement from the UN? Worse, the UNCAC issued a threat that the Philippines could lose its membership in the UN if we don’t fix our problems with corruption specifically on the pork barrel. Ouch!

If you read your history, the Philippines was one of the original signatories that created the UN and never was there a moment in our history that the UN warned the Philippines that we could lose our membership for any reason. But I’m glad that the UN made this threat because corruption has become a way of life for decades already, with our politicians getting rich and the majority of Filipinos falling below the poverty line!

It’s obvious to us that UN officials haven’t bought the Aquino propaganda (called Daang Matuwid) that they are in the midst of this fight against corruption, where President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III uses the incarceration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the removal of former Chief Justice Renato Corona as his best examples.

Clearly UN officials got their reports from sources that four years after her incarceration, the Aquino regime has yet to come up with solid evidence that can pin down the former president. UN officials probably know that the pork barrel was used to bribe Congressmen and Senators in ousting the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There’s more than enough evidence to prove that this fact really happened.

I’m also very sure that the UNCAC also knows that Vice President Jejomar Binay has been accused of corruption before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which hogged national headlines in this country. Yet the Vice President refuses to answer those queries directly.

Then there’s the case of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima, who is also in hot water over allegations of luxurious homes that cannot be found in the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Rosario. Despite the overwhelming evidence against the PNP chief… he refused to resign or even take a leave of absence. P-Noy also doesn’t want to suspend his man. All this is happening in our country, but there are no official investigations despite all the evidence.

Honestly, I have lost trust and confidence in the UN…after all the UN has allowed dictators to rule nations that were once democracies. So this very recent pronouncement by the UNCAC brings some kind of hope to the seemingly hopeless case where the Aquino regime steadfastly holds on to its friends and allies, despite media reporting those alleged corruption by top government officials who were never investigated.

Then out of the blue, it seems the UNCAC report literally forced the Aquino regime to call an impromptu meeting with the other co-equal branches of government, the Legislative and Judiciary, last Tuesday. One of the speakers was Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, who reminded the Executive of the budgetary requirements of the Judiciary. Of course P-Noy responded positively to this report, citing that leaders of the Legislative branch were also listening to her speech.

Can we see this as a thawing of strained relations between the Executive and the Judiciary? I certainly hope so! Just a few months back, P-Noy wanted to change the Constitution to extend his term and to clip the powers of the Supreme Court. But as of press time, we haven’t yet seen a changing of the heart by the President. I just hope that P-Noy had this meeting with the Legislative and the Judiciary not just for show to the UNCAC.

Meanwhile, a still unanswered question remains on the issue raised by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago regarding the recently approved 2015 National Budget for containing what she called “Two dangerous minefields leading to corruption.” Of course Speaker Feliciano Belmonte insisted that there is no more pork barrel in the 2015 national budget. This is where the whole trouble lies, when both Congress and the Senate cannot even agree on the meaning of “savings.”

Can the President still transfer an appropriation from one agency to another? Sen. Santiago answered this in the affirmative. She also said there are still lump sum funds that can be spent upon the discretion of legislators. Now that’s exactly what pork barrel looks like! I believe that the time has come for the Philippine government to really get serious in the fight against corruption because they owe it to the Filipino people.


No substitute for preparedness BABE’S EYE VIEW By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 7, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


By Babe Romualdez

The thought of another super typhoon slamming the country following the same path as Typhoon Yolanda was like a nightmare to the survivors, who could not believe that Mother Nature could be so mean and so cruel.

Even CNN weather forecasters were astounded, showing the initial path Typhoon Ruby (international codename Hagupit) would traverse is almost exactly the same path that Yolanda traveled coming from the western Pacific Ocean, cutting a swath across the Visayas and the Bicol regions with predictions that it could also pass through Metro Manila and Southern Luzon. A forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency even categorized Typhoon Ruby’s intensity as “violent.”

By this time, it’s become obvious that the lessons of Yolanda have sunk deep into the consciousness of Filipinos, and we were glad to see President Aquino himself taking the lead in the preparations that began as early as Thursday when news about Ruby broke. At the NDRRMC meeting where key government agencies were gathered, the president told officials that he would not take excuses, grimly warning that failure to prepare would be unforgivable.

I’m sure we have learned so much from the past that preparations would no longer be confined to mere paperwork as every challenge and eventuality is prepared for: identifying priority areas, making sure that rice warehouses are stocked, deploying rolling stores to ensure the availability of basic commodities, putting troops on red alert and positioning policemen in key commercial areas to maintain peace and order.

It’s good to hear the leadership taking the DSWD to task for giving their reports regarding food pack preparations in the “future tense,” warning that everything should be in place by the time the typhoon makes its landfall.

Our communication system is just as critical and important at this time, so I assume the key people in government are already equipped with satellite phones to make sure they can contact other government agencies in case cellphone sites are damaged by the typhoon.

Many can still remember how Mar Roxas and Voltaire Gazmin rushed to Tacloban the day before Yolanda made its landfall to oversee the preparations, only to be stranded later without any means of communication with no satellite phones. We’re told command centers are now installed in areas located along the path of the typhoon, with responders also equipped with appropriate communication equipment.

Although the president expressed exasperation at what he described as “alarmist” media reports claiming Typhoon Ruby’s strength as comparable to that of Yolanda’s — stressing that Typhoon Pablo is a more accurate basis for comparison — we have to admit that the regular updates given by media people especially over the radio has been helpful in terms of information dissemination not only in tracking the typhoon’s progress but in helping convince residents especially in coastal areas to evacuate.

Loren Legarda, who probably “lost (her) voice singing the same tune” about environmental disasters for over a decade now, said every barangay should have officials going around to inform their constituents about the effects of the oncoming typhoon and the corresponding measures every family should undertake.

“Are we expecting a storm surge? Then we should warn our communities of the expected height of the waves and how far inland the flooding would reach,” she said, adding that this would ensure that people are evacuated in safe places. As a result, local executives did not have to force their constituents to leave their homes, with thousands voluntarily evacuating to designated evacuation centers.

The private sector is also doing its share, with many bus companies suspending trips to destinations plying roll-on roll-off routes even before the LTFRB issued cease and desist orders. Power distribution utility Meralco has also asked outdoor advertisement owners to take down tarpaulins and billboards to prevent damage to power lines in case the ads fall because of the strength and wind speed of the typhoon, while electric cooperatives in Bicol and Visayas have also announced that they will cut off power supply as a preventive measure.

Meantime, PLDT is also prepositioning personnel and restoration equipment in Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Southern Luzon.

Even as we write this column, the MVP Group’s Tulong Kapatid group has launched “Operation Hagupit” with 5,000 packs of relief goods on standby, while a prepositioned team has been dispatched to the cities of Tacloban and Palo in Leyte to provide cooked meals for the families in evacuation centers. Sacks of rice were delivered to coastal municipalities in Quezon province, soup kitchens in Davao Oriental and Albay have been organized while trucks in Sorsogon are ready for dispatch to Samar and Leyte.

Those who continue to demonize the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA – calling the pact one-sided in favor of the United States and conjuring all kinds of hypothetical scenarios – are forgetting the humanitarian and disaster response component.

The US was the first country that responded in the wake of the Yolanda disaster, and now with Typhoon Ruby, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg told us that six C-130s from Okinawa are ready for dispatch to conduct rescue and relief operations – without waiting for an official request from the Philippine government. With or without any defense pact or treaty, all our allies will do what is right and come to our succor to save human lives.

While there is a possibility that Typhoon Ruby could change its course and the storm surge height could be lower than expected, there is still no substitute for preparedness because it could mean the difference between life and death.

In the end we can only do our best and let faith and prayer save us from Mother Nature’s wrath.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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