© Copyright, 2015 (PHNO) http://newsflash.org

EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary below)

FROM PHILSTAR

By Federico Pascual: CITIZENSHIP ISSUE CAN TRIP POE IN 2016 RACE


AUGUST 4 ---Grace Poe to critics: I am qualified to run for higher post. INQUIRER HEADLINE NEWS  @inquirerdotnet 02:55 PM June 3rd, 2015. Citizenship, residency questions raised HAVING spurned the overture of no less than President Aquino for her to run as Roxas’ vice presidential partner, Poe will now have to pay very dearly. Roxas needed her so desperately to boost his sagging standing, but she refused to play along on her assumption that she could make it herself to the presidency and need not be the stepping stone of anybody. Having topped the senatorial elections in 2013 as a first-time and independent candidate, her impressive victory may have given Poe and her supporters grandiose ideas about aiming fast for Malacañang. She better weigh her options carefully and consult family members who are not yet infected by politics. The danger of listening to fellow politicos is that they are liable to advise a course that is beneficial to them. The Constitution says, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.” (Emphasis supplied) Related to this, these issues are being raised by her critics: • Poe was apparently still an American when on Oct. 10, 2010, she took her solemn oath as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and swore allegiance to the Philippine Constitution. Except for a claim that she gave up her US citizenship before a notary public in Pasay City, she has not presented documentary proof that she had properly done so before the appropriate American consular officer at the US embassy. • When Poe migrated to the United States and renounced her Philippine citizenship to become an American of convenience, and later changed her mind and gave up her US citizenship, she may have reverted to being a Philippine citizen, but did not regain her status as a natural-born Filipino. READ MORE...

ALSO By Sara Soliven-De Guzman: Only the pure of heart can wield Excalibur
[Who among the candidates is the “pure of heart”? Who is the one who can lead us in the straight path? Who among them can wield the ‘Excalibur’? It is only the pure of heart who can change the course of our fate as a people and as a nation.]


PHOTO APPENDED BY PHNO: “The Quest for the Holy Grail” (oil painting, Arthur Hughes, d. 1915) THE EXCALIBUR-- KING ARTHURS'S SWORD --The past weeks have shown us how politicians can destroy our country to pieces. How our leaders can plot things out in the most vicious ways just to win an election and lead the country. What kind of leader are we looking for? I feel very bad about how President Aquino led the Filipino people throughout his 6 years in office. Why do I feel bad? Well, I believed in him and I voted for him. Among all the presidential candidates five years ago, I chose P-Noy. I convinced my friends that this man would be a different president. In his first few years as president, I gave him the benefit of the doubt allowing him to slip, fall and stumble along the way. But I eventually expected more from him. However, that leader that I had in my mind did not show up. P-Noy’s star started to fade and frustration crept in. How can a President allow his own men to deceive the Filipino people? Why is not the President punishing his men who are at fault? Why is the President impartial? Questions began to flood my mind day after day upon reading and listening to the news. Where is that moral ascendancy that he should have led this country to? Why is he failing me now? SONA after SONA he kept rumbling about the many accomplishments of his administration, painting such a beautiful scenario of how life is in the Philippines today. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I even asked myself, is he talking about the Philippines or another country? When he needed to apologize and show the people his courage to do so in behalf of our nation, he didn’t. When he was expected to mourn for the dead, he shrugged his shoulders and went the other way. Now that the people are questioning his stand on the Mindanao peace pact, he is not speaking. He keeps on telling us that it will be good for the country but we know in our hearts that his actions are wrong. He is giving a precious part of our country to an unknown future. Why is he allowing us to live in fear? During his last SONA, I was hopeful but again it came to nothing. I wasn’t convinced with his facts and figures that were somehow faulty, calculated to fit his style; to fit only what he wanted to make us hear. How could he have not mentioned the Mamasapano incident and pay tribute to the 44 SAF commandos who were mercilessly massacred in line of duty and instead spoke about the Maguindanao massacre in 2009? How can he put the blame on the private entities for his failure to resolve the MRT problem and not hold his people accountable? How can he lambast the Thomasian administration for protecting a 400 years old cultural heritage site against the government’s plan to construct a catchment area inside the school to address the flooding problem? How can he tell us of the success of the CCT program through just one person’s success when all around us, in the streets are still people living in cardboard boxes and children begging for food? How can he boast of the K-12 program’s success when in reality the program is filled with loopholes that need to be addressed? READ MORE...

ALSO by Satur Ocampo: Close US military bases and save money, lives


The Philippine military has revived plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base that American forces could use to counter China's creeping presence in the disputed South China Sea, senior navy officials said. PHOTO APPENDED BY PHNO -REUTERS/U.S. NAVY/MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS MICHAEL RUSSELL/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/FILES  Now comes a new — and quite reasonable — proposal on what to do with the 700 US military bases overstaying in various countries across the world: Close them all, and save money and lives. The idea comes from David Vine, associate professor at the American University in Washington and author of a forthcoming book, “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.” Vine, who conducted a six-year study of the bases, provides a succinct presentation of his findings in a recent op-ed piece in the International New York Times. He takes off from the likelihood that, under a mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the US Congress will soon approve the closure of another round of military bases in America, in light of the Pentagon’s estimate that the domestic bases network is more than 20% excessive. In agreeing with the Pentagon’s assessment, Vine urges a further step: “pair a new round of domestic base closings with base closings abroad” – no matter that the BRAC process doesn’t apply to overseas bases. His rationale: The overseas bases are excessive too, and they “both waste taxpayers’ money and undermine [US] national security.” Each year, Vine notes, American taxpayers pay $10,000 to $40,000 more for every soldier assigned overseas than for one stationed in the homeland. The over 700 US military bases include 174 in Germany, 113 in Japan, 83 in South Korea, and “hundreds more in some 70 countries, from Aruba [the Caribbean] to Kenya [Africa] to Thailand [Asia].” Maintaining these bases cost at least $85 billion in 2014 – and that’s a very conservative calculation, Vine emphasizes, adding that money spent for the sustained US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq can bloat the bill to $156 billion. READ MORE...

ALSO By Jarius Bondoc: Land transport a mess under President’s pet
[Proximity to power is power itself. With P-Noy immune from suit, so is Abaya — for now.]


Hatred for VP Jojo Binay is why President Noynoy Aquino now wants an Anti-Political Dynasty Law passed. Being a dynast like Binay, P-Noy used to resist bills to enforce the constitutional ban on familial control of national and local elections. P-Noy has a cousin in the Senate, a just deceased uncle at the House of Reps, and other kin in Tarlac provincial and Antipolo City politics. Binay has two daughters in the Senate and House, and a son as mayor of superrich Makati City.
But P-Noy and Binay have parted political ways, and openly are lambasting each other. P-Noy couldn’t leave un-refuted Binay’s recent remark that elective office should be “one to sawa (have one’s fill),” or so long as a family that wants to serve gets elected. To that P-Noy retorted in his SONA as a dig at Binay’s presidential ambition: “I used to be against depriving a person the right to run for office just because of a famous surname. But I have realized: there is something inherently wrong in giving a corrupt family or individual the chance at an indefinite monopoly of public office... We cannot be certain if the person who will succeed me will possess sincere intentions – he may instead choose to lord it over our people to pursue his personal interest. I believe it is now time to pass an Anti-Dynasty Law.” READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Citizenship issue can trip Poe in 2016 race

EDITORIAL:

MANILA, AUGUST 10, 2015 (PHILSTAR) POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual JR. (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 4, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0


By Federico D. Pascual JR.

THE GENERAL presumption is that there will be three main presidential candidates in the national elections in May 2016: Mar Roxas (Liberal), Jojo Binay (United Nationalist Alliance), and Grace Poe Llamanzares (Independent).

The order in which I mentioned them reflects what I guess would be the sequence they would cross the finish line, if they all survive the bruising race. I see Roxas the administration candidate eventually overcoming the survey edge of corruption-crippled Binay.

What about Poe (Llamanzares)? Somewhere along the way to Election Day, she could just drop out on the weight of the citizenship issues hounding her.

Roxas came out at the Club Filipino starting gate last Friday looking weak despite his handler, no less than President Noynoy Aquino, feverishly massaging his legs and ego. Right off, a non-yellow observer would rule him out as a foregone loser.

But one cannot ignore the miracles wrought by money and machine. “Machine” here includes not only the party behemoth but also the automated voting-counting equipment being assembled by election commissioners.

Watch Roxas the anointed slowly looking like a winner as the President and his LP acolytes minister to his weak constitution.

READ MORE...

This is the same phenomenon in such contests as the Miss Universe pageant. All the girls look the same at the start, but when one of them is proclaimed winner, by some miracle she suddenly shines as the most beautiful female in the human race.

Properly handled, Roxas, despite himself, could soon start looking like a winner.

To make the transformation convincing, the big-time survey outfits can work on the numbers. As sure as day follows night, Roxas will soon be reported in their surveys as gaining ground.

The supposed surveys are needed to effect the transformation and to prepare the public mind to accept Roxas’ growing popularity leading to a victory.

This will be helped by the perception that Binay’s following has been eroded by the demolition job done by the three musketeers of the Yellow Ribbon committee in the Senate. But the erosion has reached rock bottom, so it cannot go down any lower.

Binay can overcome his LP rival’s contrived survey upsurge by building on this bottom bedrock solidified by his investing considerable time and resources over the years he was Makati mayor and later vice president.


Contrary to the opposition’s allegations, Senator Grace Poe said she is qualified to run for a higher post in 2016. “Hindi po totoo na ako’y hindi kwalipikado. Kwalipikado po ako pero hindi pa po ako kandidato…” Poe told reporters on Wednesday. She said she was still thinking about her plans in 2016. Poe was reacting to Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco’s statement that she was not qualified to run for a higher position next year because she does not meet the 10-year residency requirement. SCREEMGRAB: INQUIRER HEADLINE NEWS  @inquirerdotnet 02:55 PM June 3rd, 2015.

Citizenship, residency questions raised HAVING spurned the overture of no less than President Aquino for her to run as Roxas’ vice presidential partner, Poe will now have to pay very dearly.

Roxas needed her so desperately to boost his sagging standing, but she refused to play along on her assumption that she could make it herself to the presidency and need not be the stepping stone of anybody.

Having topped the senatorial elections in 2013 as a first-time and independent candidate, her impressive victory may have given Poe and her supporters grandiose ideas about aiming fast for Malacañang.

She better weigh her options carefully and consult family members who are not yet infected by politics. The danger of listening to fellow politicos is that they are liable to advise a course that is beneficial to them.

The Constitution says, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.” (Emphasis supplied)

Related to this, these issues are being raised by her critics:

• Poe was apparently still an American when on Oct. 10, 2010, she took her solemn oath as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and swore allegiance to the Philippine Constitution.

Except for a claim that she gave up her US citizenship before a notary public in Pasay City, she has not presented documentary proof that she had properly done so before the appropriate American consular officer at the US embassy.

• When Poe migrated to the United States and renounced her Philippine citizenship to become an American of convenience, and later changed her mind and gave up her US citizenship, she may have reverted to being a Philippine citizen, but did not regain her status as a natural-born Filipino.

READ MORE...

A natural-born citizen is one who does not need to do anything to become a Filipino. But Poe had to do something (i.e., renounce her US citizenship and apply to regain her being Filipino). There is an essential difference between being a natural-born citizen and simply being a citizen.

• Poe lacks the 10-year residence requirement for election to the presidency. When she ran for senator in 2013, she declared in her Certificate of Candidacy under oath that she would be a resident for six years and six months by the time of the May 2013 election.

That means that by May 2016, or three years after 2013, she would be a Philippine resident for only nine years and six months — or half-year short of the 10-year residence requirement for presidential candidates.

Any of the three points above could disqualify Poe in her presidential run.

Since it is only August, well before the October deadline for the filing of Certificates of Candidacy, it would be premature to file suit against a no-candidate Poe. But it is just a matter of time.

Poe can still weigh her options and the probability that she might be disqualified on citizenship and related grounds. She may just face criminal charges, too.


Only the pure of heart can wield Excalibur AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven de Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 3, 2015 - 12:00am 0 24 googleplus0 4


By Sara Soliven de Guzman

My late grandfather, Assemblyman Benito Soliven always spoke about Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. He believed that leaders must embody greatness and must have the courage to confront their weaknesses. That if failure strikes, they must stand up, be man enough to accept their shortcomings and move forward. But to have such qualities one must first have virtue.

Virtue is not effeminate or unprogressive. My grandfather once wrote: To be virtuous is to be manly. Virtue comes from the Latin word “vir” which means “man”. Therefore, virtue is manlinesss, virtue is character, and character is the highest expression of success.

The story of Sir Galahad, the pure and virtuous knight who sat unharmed in the seat perilous at King Arthur’s famous round table, has a lesson for all. Tennyson wrote: “My good sword carves the casques of men; My tough lance thrusteth sure; My strength is as the strength of ten; Because my heart is pure.”

He continues: Yes, purity is strength, virtue is power. And so, Sir Galahad was the mightiest and bravest knight of the world, the one who finally succeeded in the quest of the Holy Grail that typifies all worthy of achievement and success.


Sir Galahad The Pure, The Good Knight, The Best Knight in the World. He wins this last title from his father Sir Lancelot de Lake (or du Lac) not just because of his unparalleled knightly prowess - which only ever equals his father’s - but because of his completely unstained virtuous nature, which his father never possesses. PHOTO APPENDED BY PHNO: “The Quest for the Holy Grail” (oil painting, Arthur Hughes, d. 1915) THE EXCALIBUR-- KING ARTHURS'S SWORD

The past weeks have shown us how politicians can destroy our country to pieces. How our leaders can plot things out in the most vicious ways just to win an election and lead the country. What kind of leader are we looking for? I feel very bad about how President Aquino led the Filipino people throughout his 6 years in office. Why do I feel bad? Well, I believed in him and I voted for him.

Among all the presidential candidates five years ago, I chose P-Noy. I convinced my friends that this man would be a different president. In his first few years as president, I gave him the benefit of the doubt allowing him to slip, fall and stumble along the way. But I eventually expected more from him.

However, that leader that I had in my mind did not show up. P-Noy’s star started to fade and frustration crept in. How can a President allow his own men to deceive the Filipino people?

Why is not the President punishing his men who are at fault?

Why is the President impartial?

Questions began to flood my mind day after day upon reading and listening to the news. Where is that moral ascendancy that he should have led this country to? Why is he failing me now?

SONA after SONA he kept rumbling about the many accomplishments of his administration, painting such a beautiful scenario of how life is in the Philippines today. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I even asked myself, is he talking about the Philippines or another country?

When he needed to apologize and show the people his courage to do so in behalf of our nation, he didn’t. When he was expected to mourn for the dead, he shrugged his shoulders and went the other way. Now that the people are questioning his stand on the Mindanao peace pact, he is not speaking. He keeps on telling us that it will be good for the country but we know in our hearts that his actions are wrong. He is giving a precious part of our country to an unknown future. Why is he allowing us to live in fear?

During his last SONA, I was hopeful but again it came to nothing. I wasn’t convinced with his facts and figures that were somehow faulty, calculated to fit his style; to fit only what he wanted to make us hear.

How could he have not mentioned the Mamasapano incident and pay tribute to the 44 SAF commandos who were mercilessly massacred in line of duty and instead spoke about the Maguindanao massacre in 2009?

How can he put the blame on the private entities for his failure to resolve the MRT problem and not hold his people accountable? How can he lambast the Thomasian administration for protecting a 400 years old cultural heritage site against the government’s plan to construct a catchment area inside the school to address the flooding problem?

How can he tell us of the success of the CCT program through just one person’s success when all around us, in the streets are still people living in cardboard boxes and children begging for food?

How can he boast of the K-12 program’s success when in reality the program is filled with loopholes that need to be addressed?

READ MORE...

And to support his view he had this student supposedly a graduate of the K-12 program tell her success story. But people wondered how could the student have finished the program when it hasn’t even started?

Why didn’t he report to his ‘bosses’ the situation in the Panatag Shoal issue?

Had P-Noy prioritized the changes of government services to upgrade the meeting of every citizen’s basic needs the minute he sat in office, things would have been different. Had he fought corruption and punished every criminal whether friend or foe, then he would have been a hero in our hearts.

Had he identified the problems that needed immediate solutions and led his men to be conscientious in their actions, then with his head held high he can truly say to his ‘bosses’, in his last SONA, “I fulfilled my promise, now, it is up to you to continue treading the path to righteousness.”

Well, everything now is water under the bridge.

What has been done cannot be undone. What has been said cannot be recanted.

The Filipino people cannot afford to sulk. We need to move. We are at the threshold of another national election. We are at the crossroads of no return.

And now that I think about it, I am pretty sure I have grown wiser in the decisions I shall make for my future, my children’s future and for the country’s future. I should be able to discern the kind of leader this country needs.

What should we look for in a presidential candidate?

First and foremost, we should be keen observers. It is important to consider the true purpose of each candidate.

What is their purpose in life? What is their purpose to lead? We should know that it is essential for every traveler to know where he or she is going.

What is their objective in wanting to attain leadership?

It is every man’s true objective to lead a good, virtuous and useful life, in the service of God and humanity – in order to attain salvation of his or her soul and deserve eternal glory.

Who among the candidates is the “pure of heart”?

Who is the one who can lead us in the straight path?

Who among them can wield the ‘Excalibur’?

It is only the pure of heart who can change the course of our fate as a people and as a nation.


Close US military bases and save money, lives AT GROUND LEVEL By Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 1, 2015 - 12:00am 0 81 googleplus0 2


By Satur C. Ocampo

Now comes a new — and quite reasonable — proposal on what to do with the 700 US military bases overstaying in various countries across the world: Close them all, and save money and lives.

The idea comes from David Vine, associate professor at the American University in Washington and author of a forthcoming book, “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.” Vine, who conducted a six-year study of the bases, provides a succinct presentation of his findings in a recent op-ed piece in the International New York Times.

He takes off from the likelihood that, under a mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the US Congress will soon approve the closure of another round of military bases in America, in light of the Pentagon’s estimate that the domestic bases network is more than 20% excessive.

In agreeing with the Pentagon’s assessment, Vine urges a further step: “pair a new round of domestic base closings with base closings abroad” – no matter that the BRAC process doesn’t apply to overseas bases.

His rationale: The overseas bases are excessive too, and they “both waste taxpayers’ money and undermine [US] national security.” Each year, Vine notes, American taxpayers pay $10,000 to $40,000 more for every soldier assigned overseas than for one stationed in the homeland.

The over 700 US military bases include 174 in Germany, 113 in Japan, 83 in South Korea, and “hundreds more in some 70 countries, from Aruba [the Caribbean] to Kenya [Africa] to Thailand [Asia].” Maintaining these bases cost at least $85 billion in 2014 – and that’s a very conservative calculation, Vine emphasizes, adding that money spent for the sustained US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq can bloat the bill to $156 billion.

READ MORE...

“Unfortunately, many inside and outside the military are committed to maintaining a large and extravagant system of bases abroad,” he laments. For example, he says, in Europe the Pentagon has spent billions building new bases at the same time that it’s been closing others.

President Obama’s 2011 “pivot to Asia-Pacific” strategy, Vine points out, has meant “billions more in spending in a region where the military already has hundreds of bases and tens of thousands of troops.” Obama has assured no spending cuts on his program to deploy 60% of US maritime and related forces into the region. “Billions of dollars have likewise gone to building a new and permanent base infrastructure in the Persian Gulf,” he adds.

Vine debunks both the concern expressed by many that closing military bases abroad “will signal an isolationist turn [for the US] and weaken national security” and what he termed the “outdated Cold War ‘forward strategy’” that national security requires overseas bases because “they deter enemies and keep the peace.”

Studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Bush administration and by the Rand Corporation, he says, show that “advances in moving forces by air and sea have largely erased the advantage of forward stationing of troops; the military can generally deploy troops just as quickly from domestic bases as it can from bases abroad.”

Furthermore, “little if any empirical research proves the effectiveness of overseas bases as a form of long-term deterrence,” Vine avers. On the contrary, he mentions the following negative situations and consequences:

• US military presence abroad has provoked antipathy towards Americans. Examples: US troops became targets of bombings in Germany in the 1980s; in 2000 the US Navy destroyer Cole was attacked in Yemen.

• US troops in Saudi Arabia were part of Osama bin Laden’s “professed motivation” for the September 11, 2001 deadly attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Research shows that US military bases and troops in the Middle East “correlate with Al Qaida recruitment,” and have been (per foreign policy analyst Bradley Bowman) “major catalysts for anti-Americanism and radicalization.”

• Foreign American bases tend to heighten military tensions and discourage diplomatic solutions to conflicts. (China, Russia, and Iran view US bases near their borders as threats that encourage them to increase military spending.) Such overseas bases “can actually make war more likely and America less secure.”

• Worldwide, military bases have also engendered environmental damage [such as toxic wastes left behind in Clark Air Base], forced displacement, prostitution, accidents, and crimes.

The deleterious impacts of prolonged operations of US military bases in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea have spurred long-running campaigns by the people in the three nations demanding the withdrawal of American troops and dismantling of the bases.

In September 1991, strong popular pressure prevailed on our Senate to vote against the extension of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement – spurning then President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino’s personal appeal for extension.

Well, her only son, now President himself, has practically restored the US military bases here — and multiples of them, free of any charge, wherever in the country the US may request to set up facilities. He has done so via the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will declare the “executive agreement” unconstitutional, as urged in the petition pending before it.

Besides the primordial issues of upholding our national sovereignty and the specific provisions of the 1987 Constitution, Vine argues for sustainable economic development that would result from the permanent closure of US military bases abroad.

Compared with other forms of economic activity, he points out, “[b]ases are unproductive uses of land, employing relatively few people given the large expanses occupied, and contributing little to local economic growth.”


Land transport a mess under President’s pet LGOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 5, 2015 - 12:00am 1 3 googleplus0 0


By Jarius Bondoc

Hatred for VP Jojo Binay is why President Noynoy Aquino now wants an Anti-Political Dynasty Law passed. Being a dynast like Binay, P-Noy used to resist bills to enforce the constitutional ban on familial control of national and local elections. P-Noy has a cousin in the Senate, a just deceased uncle at the House of Reps, and other kin in Tarlac provincial and Antipolo City politics.

Binay has two daughters in the Senate and House, and a son as mayor of superrich Makati City.

But P-Noy and Binay have parted political ways, and openly are lambasting each other. P-Noy couldn’t leave un-refuted Binay’s recent remark that elective office should be “one to sawa (have one’s fill),” or so long as a family that wants to serve gets elected.

To that P-Noy retorted in his SONA as a dig at Binay’s presidential ambition:

“I used to be against depriving a person the right to run for office just because of a famous surname. But I have realized: there is something inherently wrong in giving a corrupt family or individual the chance at an indefinite monopoly of public office... We cannot be certain if the person who will succeed me will possess sincere intentions – he may instead choose to lord it over our people to pursue his personal interest. I believe it is now time to pass an Anti-Dynasty Law.”

READ MORE...

Fair enough. May the next few weeks – before the dynasts’ filing of candidacies for the 2016 election – see P-Noy making Congress fulfill his wish.

* * *

Whose mad idea was it to put more buses on Metro Manila’s main avenue supposedly to ease the frequent breakdowns of MRT-3 commuter trains?

Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz (Abakada Party) asks that, in wake of news that regular train riders are shunning the special buses despite the lower fares and fewer stops.


P-NOY WITH CABINET STALWARTS ROXAS AND ABAYA

Daily motorists-commuters along EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) deem it harebrained. The MRT-3 was built on elevated tracks along EDSA precisely to ease traffic and provide rapid mass transit. Any additional bus worsens gridlocks that occur any time of day or night. That the 40 buses run even if empty also intensifies air pollution.

“Then again, it may not be a bad idea for the ruling Liberal Party,” dela Cruz mocks. The buses could be another dirty fundraiser for the 2016 election. There are many reasons to suspect so:

• The scheme came not from the MRT-3 management but the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). MRT-3 is the Dept. of Transportation and Communications’ metro rail operator. The quasi-judicial LTFRB, borrowing franchising powers from Congress, merely is attached to the DOTC for supervision. Its duty, over which the DOTC should have no sway, is to license public utility and school buses, jitneys, taxis, and haulers. That MRT-3 trains, tracks, and facilities are deteriorating due to shoddy upkeep by an LP-owned contractor is DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya’s accountability. More so since he, in grave conflict of interest, also is LP acting president. For LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez to be rescuing Abaya from his mess, albeit in vain, is to misuse the LTFRB, dela Cruz says.

• Hinting of sleaze, dela Cruz says there was no mandatory public hearing to franchise the 40 new EDSA buses. Such hearing would have revealed who the bus owner is. Too, why he is favored with a subsidy in order to offer lower fares. And why enjoy fewer stops, and exemptions from anti-traffic plate-number coding and sticking to bus lanes, which other bus franchisees must obey? Dela Cruz says the LTFRB fielded the buses despite its own moratorium on new franchises and its traffic reduction along EDSA. He likens Ginez’s scheme to another one he recently exposed about a favored Luzon bus line. So influential is the owner that Ginez reportedly tricked the two other LTFRB commissioners, Ariel Inton and Ronaldo Corpuz, into extending expired and restoring rescinded franchises, despite faulty papers. Dela Cruz has initiated congressional inquiries into the anomaly, and filed a complaint with the Ombudsman.

Dela Cruz has been denouncing too the Land Transportation Office, DOTC’s arm for drivers’ licensing and vehicle registration. A public outcry ensued when recent floods crumpled and corroded the LTO’s supposedly world-class, tamper-proof metal vehicle plates. All new registrants and renewals must shift to the new plates that the DOTC contracted anomalously in 2013.

DOTC’s Congress-approved budget for the project was only P187 million, yet it was awarded to a P3.8-billion bidder. DOTC also advanced P478 million to the contractor, even though it had long been blacklisted from government contracting due to forgery.

The Commission on Audit last month declared the project unlawful because of the over-budget and over-payments. Normally an agency given such stern COA memo would stop its illegalized project.

Not the DOTC-LTO. There the LP acting president has the impunity to defy the law, because President Noynoy Aquino regards him like the kid brother he never had. Abaya was the military aide-de-camp of P-Noy’s mother President Cory, and later youngest member of his clique of LP congressmen. Said Abaya’s spokesman of the COA memo against the anomalous vehicle plates: “We will not stop it, unless we receive a direct order saying so.”

Proximity to power is power itself. With P-Noy immune from suit, so is Abaya — for now.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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