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


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

EDITORIAL: BIGOTRY
[There is no need to harp on the fact that he [Pacquiao] is no expert on the matter, that his own choices in his personal life demolish his credibility, that his sport probably addled his thinking faculties and that he gives too much credit to his so-called advisers. He is who he is—there is nothing we can do about it. Where we can do something is on the ballot. There, we get to decide who gets the privilege of bringing their advocacies—and yes, biases—to the halls of Congress.]


FEBRUARY 18 -It’s one thing to have an opinion.
Sometimes we arrive at our positions through cold, hard logic. Sometimes they are dictated by passion, arising from what we grew up believing, what we studied, what we became exposed to or experienced. Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, and here there is no correct or wrong one. The right is inherent to any person, whether one is informed or misguided. Individual preferences reflect on the person who makes them—nobody else. What makes the difference is the belief that only you are in the right, and everybody else must agree with you—or they will perish in hell or meet some other horrific ending. To be a homophobe, for instance, is a characteristic nobody begrudges a boxer-turned-nonperforming congressman who now has the gall to seek a Senate seat. For his statements that homosexual couples are worse than animals, the boxer drew flak from citizens online and off. The backlash, both from the LGBT community and from others who simply think we must live and let live, was so bludgeoning that the boxer had to issue an apology immediately. We hope it was clear to the boxer what he was apologizing for. READ MORE...

ALSO: TV debate - Sniping, but no fireworks


FEBRUARY 22 -First debate. This screen grab shows the five presidential candidates—from left, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and former Secretary Mar Roxas—striking a pose for the camera after their first-ever televised debate. LINO SANTOS
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—All five candidates for president used the first live television debate in more than two decades and their first gathering on a single stage on Sunday night to showcase their platforms of government and to engage in some sniping, as well.
There were no heated exchanges in the two-hour debate Sunday night in Cagayan de Oro City, hosted and officially sanctioned by the Commission on Elections, but the candidates used some of the time allotted them to take potshots at their opponents. Administration candidate Manuel Roxas II, who has been trailing in all the opinion polls, took the offensive in his opening statement, by comparing the president to a family driver to whom people would entrust their children. “Who would you place your trust in to transport your children safely?” he said in Filipino. “To a person who is a crook and who has been charged with stealing? To someone who is hot-headed and might cause accidents? To someone who is just learning to drive?” Although Roxas did not name names, it was clear that he was referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe. Later during the debate, Roxas returned to Poe’s inexperience, saying the presidency was not a position for an OJT (on-the-job trainee). Poe shot back, saying she didn’t need long years of experience to know that Roxas had failed at his jobs at the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Transportation and Communications, both of which were investigated in the Senate. Roxas was secretary of the DILG when 44 police commandos were slaughtered in Mamasapano. He has also been blamed for the deterioration of Metro Manila’s commuter train system, which was his responsibility as Transportation secretary. Binay also criticized Roxas for his dismal performance at the DILG and DoTC and promised that the “analysis paralysis” that characterized the Aquino administration would not happen under his leadership. The vice president also hit the administration for its lack of compassion, and said Roxas failed to address the mess in the MRT or help the survivors of Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ in Leyte. Roxas shot back that he was in Tacloban City before, during and after the typhoon, and did not merely fly in for a photo opportunity—a dig at Binay. Roxas, who lost the vice presidency to Binay in 2010, also said the vice president could not claim credit for success in Makati because it is divided into the affluent side on Ayala Avenue and the poor side in West Rembo. READ MORE...

ALSO: by Jenny Ortuoste - When religious beliefs lead to discrimination
[The election campaigns allow us the chance to screen candidates, find out their platforms, if any, and determine their attitudes to significant issues. Make the wise choice. Vote for the candidates who will bring Filipinos together in unity to work for development and progress and create an inclusive community, instead of the ones who will continue to keep us apart in dissension and conflict.]


FEBRUARY 18 -by Jenny Ortuoste Senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao reaped intense criticism when he justified his stand against same-sex marriage by saying homosexuals are worse than animals when it comes to their sex lives. The backlash was immediate and came from prominent LGBTQ personalities, advocacy groups, and other quarters, some of whom urged against voting for Pacquiao in the coming elections. Pacquiao apologized for the slur, pointing to his religious beliefs and his interpretation of the Bible to explain his stand. What the Pacquiao debacle contributes to the discourse is this: how do we view religious fundamentalism in relation to society, politics, and the law? Religious fundamentalism often makes literal references to scripture and dogma that have the effect of reinforcing ingroup and outgroup differences. Because it is by nature discriminatory, it has no place in the politics or law of a just and democratic society that must meet the needs of a plurality of people coming from different backgrounds and diverse circumstances and lifestyles. Under the law, Pacquiao, as a private individual, is free to practice whatever religion he wants. The law protects his right to be a bigot if he so chooses to be. However, as a public servant, it is his responsibility to care for all sectors of society, especially the marginalized and stigmatized such as the LGBTQs who struggle against prejudice and hostility. It is this distinction - the difference between a candidate’s private and public life —that voters need to draw in order to make informed choices at the polls. It is also the demarcation line that candidates must be mindful of when they present their service platforms and, if elected, when they perform their sworn duty to their constituents. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ed BIADO - Who cares what Pacquiao says?
[Instead of being angry, we should just try to understand Mr. Pacquiao. His thoughts are not original. Plenty of people think like him. Maybe right now, he’s being celebrated in those circles. Some label his statements as “gay slur.” Global athletic wear brand Nike, which immediately terminated the boxer’s endorsement contract following his “abhorrent” comments, believes it’s “discrimination.” I think it’s ignorance. Like most bigoted people, Mr. Pacquiao might just be coming from a place of ignorance. But ignorant as he is, he is in a position of power.Because we put him there.]


FEBRUARY 19 -Ed Biado
Unlike the online mob, I’m not angry at the boxer Manny Pacquiao for expressing anti-gay sentiments. That is his opinion; and no matter how invalid and perhaps uneducated, he has the right to have and say it. In the words of the great Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  I may not be willing to die for Mr. Pacquiao, but I recognize that in a democratic country such as the Philippines, he – like the rest of us – has the freedom to flaunt his ridiculousness. Mr. Pacquiao is a celebrity, an idealized image of a man put on a pedestal by the people who idolize him. He has an enormous stage, being known worldwide as one of the best boxers of this generation. He is an athlete, a very rich one, at that. And all his fame and money have gotten him to where he is – on the brink of being a senator of the republic whose words resonate, reverberate and echo until four news cycles later. Now, people of the Philippines, he is your creation. He was able to say what he said because you – we – gave him the opportunity to do so. No one will care about the bigoted thoughts of an unknown. We care because it’s this one person who many of us think so highly of. Some even refer to him as a national hero. How can he say such despicable things, then? Why does he stand for something so hateful? How can he possibly have such a rudimentary and flawed understanding of biology? Of human sexuality? Of animal sex? Sorry to break it to you, but Mr. Pacquiao is not a scientist. He does not know that homosexual behavior has been observed in apes, fruit flies, sheep, penguins, mallard ducks, elephants, frogs and many, many other animals.  It’s not his fault that he does not know that. READ MORE...

ALSO: Editorial - Rushed auction
[The bidding for the Light Rail Transit Line 6 project, meanwhile, will be a closely-watched affair due to the presence of other notable bidders like San Miguel Corp. and Egis International of France. Another misstep from the government will greatly reduce the state’s credibility in honoring contracts and cast serious doubt on the PPP program.]


FEBRUARY 19 -The Transportation Department seems to be in a hurry to hold the bidding for the P65.09-billion Light Rail Transit Line 6 project that seeks to further extend the LRT Line 1 to Dasmariñas from Bacoor, Cavite. The private sector is wary that conducting the auction and awarding the project to the winning bidder before the May elections will be fraught with controversy and risks. Prospective bidders want the government to delay the auction of the project by six months, or after the election period. One interested company—Metro Pacific Investments Corp.—wants the auction on the new rail line held after the election period, or once new officials are sworn in, from the original deadline of April 5. “Our country is not good in continuity of government. When the new government comes, there’s always changes,” says a Metro Pacific official during the pre-qualification conference. “It feels that they are really rushing it. We want to look at and understand the project.”  The official’s comment best describes the bad reputation of the government in honoring contracts with the private sector. The government time and again has earned the ire of local and foreign investors after reneging on the terms of contracts earlier agreed with project proponents. READ MORE...

ALSO: Editorial - ‘Why only me?’
[In some respects, Vitangcol is in a better place than his former superiors. He at least acknowledges that there is a mess over at the MRT, and he was part of the group responsible for it. Where he is unfortunate is in the fact that he is “only” a Vitangcol. He is small fry compared to the names of his big bosses who should be protected at all costs.]


FEBRUARY 20 -The former general manager of the Metro Rail Transit 3, Al Vitangcol, this week asked the Supreme Court to tell the Sandiganbayan to stop trying him for graft with regard to the troubles of the rail line traversing Edsa. Vitangcol is in trouble because one of the incorporators of PH Trams, the company that was engaged by the agency to undertake maintenance of the MRT, is his wife’s uncle. He says the Sandiganbayan is zeroing in on the conflict of interest issue when in fact, his former superiors Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and, before him, Secretary Manuel Roxas II, among others, should be held equally accountable for the decrepit state of the MRT. Hundreds of thousands of commuters use the MRT every day despite the fact that it has been poorly maintained, with one malfunction or other occurring regularly. In 2014, a train derailed and slammed into the barriers and onto the street below, injuring dozens. The issue has been a sore point among residents of the capital. And now Vitangcol says he is being sacrificed to placate the public’s feelings as the more culpable officials are getting away despite their gross and inexcusable inaction, if not willful and deliberate manipulation of the events and processes related to the maintenance of the rail system. Meanwhile, those from the camp of Roxas and Abaya dismiss this as political vendetta—squid tactics that are convenient especially now that Roxas is running for president. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Editorial: Bigotry

MANILA, FEBRUARY 22, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted February 18, 2016 - It’s one thing to have an opinion.

Sometimes we arrive at our positions through cold, hard logic. Sometimes they are dictated by passion, arising from what we grew up believing, what we studied, what we became exposed to or experienced.

Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, and here there is no correct or wrong one. The right is inherent to any person, whether one is informed or misguided. Individual preferences reflect on the person who makes them—nobody else.

What makes the difference is the belief that only you are in the right, and everybody else must agree with you—or they will perish in hell or meet some other horrific ending.

To be a homophobe, for instance, is a characteristic nobody begrudges a boxer-turned-nonperforming congressman who now has the gall to seek a Senate seat. For his statements that homosexual couples are worse than animals, the boxer drew flak from citizens online and off.

The backlash, both from the LGBT community and from others who simply think we must live and let live, was so bludgeoning that the boxer had to issue an apology immediately.

We hope it was clear to the boxer what he was apologizing for.

READ MORE...

People seethed at his statements because it was made from a supposed moral high ground. He has only recently affiliated with a religious group; this has perhaps inspired him to mouth those damaging word.

But let’s not go the boxer’s route, lest we ourselves become the bigots we despise.

There is no need to harp on the fact that he is no expert on the matter, that his own choices in his personal life demolish his credibility, that his sport probably addled his thinking faculties and that he gives too much credit to his so-called advisers. He is who he is—there is nothing we can do about it.

Where we can do something is on the ballot. There, we get to decide who gets the privilege of bringing their advocacies—and yes, biases—to the halls of Congress.

If we allow this to happen, they will officially impose their bigotry on us, not through careless words but through laws and other official actions paid for by the taxes we bleed.

Let’s take our fighting words somewhere else.


TV debate: Sniping, but no fireworks posted February 22, 2016 at 12:01 am by Sandy Araneta, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Christine F. Herrera and Rio N. Araja


First debate. This screen grab shows the five presidential candidates—from left, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and former Secretary Mar Roxas—striking a pose for the camera after their first-ever televised debate. LINO SANTOS

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—All five candidates for president used the first live television debate in more than two decades and their first gathering on a single stage on Sunday night to showcase their platforms of government and to engage in some sniping, as well.

There were no heated exchanges in the two-hour debate Sunday night in Cagayan de Oro City, hosted and officially sanctioned by the Commission on Elections, but the candidates used some of the time allotted them to take potshots at their opponents.

Administration candidate Manuel Roxas II, who has been trailing in all the opinion polls, took the offensive in his opening statement, by comparing the president to a family driver to whom people would entrust their children.

“Who would you place your trust in to transport your children safely?” he said in Filipino. “To a person who is a crook and who has been charged with stealing? To someone who is hot-headed and might cause accidents? To someone who is just learning to drive?”

Although Roxas did not name names, it was clear that he was referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe.

Later during the debate, Roxas returned to Poe’s inexperience, saying the presidency was not a position for an OJT (on-the-job trainee).

Poe shot back, saying she didn’t need long years of experience to know that Roxas had failed at his jobs at the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Transportation and Communications, both of which were investigated in the Senate.

Roxas was secretary of the DILG when 44 police commandos were slaughtered in Mamasapano. He has also been blamed for the deterioration of Metro Manila’s commuter train system, which was his responsibility as Transportation secretary.

Binay also criticized Roxas for his dismal performance at the DILG and DoTC and promised that the “analysis paralysis” that characterized the Aquino administration would not happen under his leadership.

The vice president also hit the administration for its lack of compassion, and said Roxas failed to address the mess in the MRT or help the survivors of Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ in Leyte.

Roxas shot back that he was in Tacloban City before, during and after the typhoon, and did not merely fly in for a photo opportunity—a dig at Binay.

Roxas, who lost the vice presidency to Binay in 2010, also said the vice president could not claim credit for success in Makati because it is divided into the affluent side on Ayala Avenue and the poor side in West Rembo.

READ MORE...

In the part of the debate on Mindanao, Roxas said the island has received P260 billion in the last five years under the administration’s “straight path” policy—a claim that Duterte contested.

“I have not seen a straight path. All I see is a crooked path,” he said.

“Sixty-four percent of the infrastructure projects are here in Metro Manila, while 19 percent was allocated to Region 11. That’s why Mindanao is very angry… Even our lawful share [from the government] is not given to us. Mindanao contributes 54 percent in export dollars to the country’s gross domestic product but only P19 billion goes to Region 11,” Duterte said.

Exchanges between Duterte and Santiago were more cordial, with Duterte saying that Santiago was the only other candidate on stage who was qualified to be president.

When questions about Santiago’s bout with cancer were raised, Duterte added that he did not see the senator passing away in the next 20 years.

During his turn, Binay said his administration would be the antithesis of the Aquino administration, which he said was beset by “analysis paralysis.”

He said the biggest problem was poverty, and that he would address this in the same way he improved Makati when he was mayor there.

Duterte, on the other hand, emphasized his peace-and-order agenda.

“Why am I here? I am here because I love my country and I love the people of the Philippines,” he said. “There is so much corruption, so much crime and drugs are flooding [the country]….Nobody is minding it. If you give me the chance, by God’s will, I will stop it all.”

He said he would have no compunction about killing criminals—as long as this was done legally.

“If I become president, it would be bloody,” he said.

Asked about his reputation as a womanizer, Duterte said he was separated from his wife.

“I am doing all of these in [the privacy] of a room. You don’t flaunt it...If you have to do it, why not? I am separated and my other wife, the nurse, is in the United States. So in between those years... it’s biology,” he said.

Despite being a neophyte in politics, Poe said, she was not easily fooled.

She also said if elected President, she would bring transparency to government by issuing an executive order to implement freedom-of-information measures.

Poe also promised to allocate 30 percent of the national budget to Mindanao, push for food security, better health care services, housing and respect of gender rights.

“Many with experience have ruled, but the situation remains the same. What we need is someone who has concern, who has conviction and who can act swiftly to give solutions,” she said.

Santiago, who spent much of her time responding to questions about her health, said that as president, she would pump more funds into health and education.

She also urged voters to choose a leader who excelled in school, and showed professional and moral excellence.

At 70, she said she wanted to spend her next years in service.

“I do not want to spend the next six years lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself,” she said. “In fact, I did not lie in bed. I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt sorry for my country because graft and corruption are endemic and everybody speaks out but nobody has done very much.”

Roxas spent much of his time citing the accomplishments of the administration, and said he would continue its programs.

He also said he would continue to implement a reinvigorated anti-crime program.

Asked why he wants to be president, Roxas said he realized that he had much more than many Filipinos.

“I have a job. I have savings. I know that my child will have a bright future because he has an education. If a family member gets sick, I am confident that someone will take care of them. I do not worry about what we will eat.... Why do I want to be president? Because I want you to have the same kind of life. Far from hunger, far from fear and free to dream,” Roxas said.


When religious beliefs lead to discrimination posted February 18, 2016 at 12:01 am by Jenny Ortuoste


by Jenny Ortuoste

Senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao reaped intense criticism when he justified his stand against same-sex marriage by saying homosexuals are worse than animals when it comes to their sex lives.

The backlash was immediate and came from prominent LGBTQ personalities, advocacy groups, and other quarters, some of whom urged against voting for Pacquiao in the coming elections.

Pacquiao apologized for the slur, pointing to his religious beliefs and his interpretation of the Bible to explain his stand.

What the Pacquiao debacle contributes to the discourse is this: how do we view religious fundamentalism in relation to society, politics, and the law?

Religious fundamentalism often makes literal references to scripture and dogma that have the effect of reinforcing ingroup and outgroup differences. Because it is by nature discriminatory, it has no place in the politics or law of a just and democratic society that must meet the needs of a plurality of people coming from different backgrounds and diverse circumstances and lifestyles.

Under the law, Pacquiao, as a private individual, is free to practice whatever religion he wants. The law protects his right to be a bigot if he so chooses to be.

However, as a public servant, it is his responsibility to care for all sectors of society, especially the marginalized and stigmatized such as the LGBTQs who struggle against prejudice and hostility.

It is this distinction - the difference between a candidate’s private and public life —that voters need to draw in order to make informed choices at the polls. It is also the demarcation line that candidates must be mindful of when they present their service platforms and, if elected, when they perform their sworn duty to their constituents.

READ MORE...

Religions are, for the most part, exclusive in nature in that they exclude non-believers. In their recent joint statement, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill deplored the shift of societies to a secular mindset. That is only to be expected of them—it is in their job description to defend their faiths.

In contrast, the Dalai Lama has said that his religion is simply kindness. Hence the growing popularity of Buddhism, if not as a religion, then as a philosophy—there isn’t the same missionary fire, no urgency to spread and dominate, because it is tolerant, because it is accepting of others’ beliefs.

How many times must I say this—not everyone in this country is Catholic. Not everyone is Christian. Not everyone is religious. And because we are all citizens of one country, the state must protect the welfare of each individual, regardless of creed or other affiliation, regardless of lifestyle or sexuality.

This is why we have laws. In a just and humane society, the law is intended to protect and serve the interests of the public.

The law serves as shield and sword and shelter. It must be all this to everyone because no other cultural system, religion included, can serve without discrimination.

Religion should be a private matter, and should not be imposed on others in a pluralistic society such as ours. This is why we have a problem with lawmakers whose private beliefs intrude upon their public capacities, for instance, those who voted against the reproductive health bill for religious reasons rather than any logical reason based on facts and evidence.

As in Jose Rizal’s time, the prailes still hold sway over minds and hearts. Whether this is because of fear of hellfire, genuine spiritual fervor, or a laissez-faire consensus to cultural and societal norms is a matter of debate.

If, let’s say, the Muslims were be the majority, would the situation be the same? Perhaps—refer to the Islamic countries where religious doctrine dictates the law.

If our country is to strengthen and grow, it needs to reject the ‘othering’ mindset that creates an ‘us’ and ‘others’ and relegates the latter to the outgroup, notwithstanding the contributions they make to the economy and to society in general. By comparing LGBTQ lifestyles to those of animals, Pacquiao ‘othered’ a sector of society and reinforced cultural norms that stigmatize them.

The election campaigns allow us the chance to screen candidates, find out their platforms, if any, and determine their attitudes to significant issues.

Make the wise choice. Vote for the candidates who will bring Filipinos together in unity to work for development and progress and create an inclusive community, instead of the ones who will continue to keep us apart in dissension and conflict.

***

Facebook: Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @jennyortuoste, Instagram: @jensdecember


Who cares what Pacquiao says? posted February 19, 2016 at 09:10 pm by Ed Biado


Ed Biado

Unlike the online mob, I’m not angry at the boxer Manny Pacquiao for expressing anti-gay sentiments. That is his opinion; and no matter how invalid and perhaps uneducated, he has the right to have and say it.

In the words of the great Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I may not be willing to die for Mr. Pacquiao, but I recognize that in a democratic country such as the Philippines, he – like the rest of us – has the freedom to flaunt his ridiculousness.

Mr. Pacquiao is a celebrity, an idealized image of a man put on a pedestal by the people who idolize him. He has an enormous stage, being known worldwide as one of the best boxers of this generation. He is an athlete, a very rich one, at that. And all his fame and money have gotten him to where he is – on the brink of being a senator of the republic whose words resonate, reverberate and echo until four news cycles later.


Now, people of the Philippines, he is your creation. He was able to say what he said because you – we – gave him the opportunity to do so. No one will care about the bigoted thoughts of an unknown. We care because it’s this one person who many of us think so highly of. Some even refer to him as a national hero.

How can he say such despicable things, then? Why does he stand for something so hateful? How can he possibly have such a rudimentary and flawed understanding of biology? Of human sexuality? Of animal sex? Sorry to break it to you, but Mr. Pacquiao is not a scientist. He does not know that homosexual behavior has been observed in apes, fruit flies, sheep, penguins, mallard ducks, elephants, frogs and many, many other animals.

It’s not his fault that he does not know that.

READ MORE...

He’s a boxer. I’m not saying that boxers are unlearned. What I’m saying is that as a boxer who has had such an impressive career, I’m certain Mr. Pacquiao has no time to read about the sex lives of animals. During his tenure as congressman, he has the worst attendance record. He doesn’t even have time to go to Congress to attend to his duty of lawmaking.


Instead of being angry, we should just try to understand Mr. Pacquiao. His thoughts are not original. Plenty of people think like him. Maybe right now, he’s being celebrated in those circles. Some label his statements as “gay slur.” Global athletic wear brand Nike, which immediately terminated the boxer’s endorsement contract following his “abhorrent” comments, believes it’s “discrimination.” I think it’s ignorance. Like most bigoted people, Mr. Pacquiao might just be coming from a place of ignorance.

But as ignorant as he is, he is in a position of power. Because we put him there. It is our adoration as fans that has allowed him to display and amplify his homophobia. If he is able to hurt us, it’s because we let him. If he is able to offend us, it’s because we gave him the privilege to do so. His effect on us – how we think, how we feel – is proportional to our perception of him.

Which is why I’m not affected. I don’t care. Because I don’t care about him and anything that comes out of his mouth. Mr. Pacquiao’s views are irrelevant to me. And if you feel any negativity toward him and what he said, then you should stop caring about him, too. Don’t think about him. Don’t acknowledge that he matters. And for the love of all things fair and just, don’t elect him as senator.

I’m @EdBiado on Twitter and Instagram


Editorial: Rushed auction posted February 19, 2016 at 12:01 am

The Transportation Department seems to be in a hurry to hold the bidding for the P65.09-billion Light Rail Transit Line 6 project that seeks to further extend the LRT Line 1 to Dasmariñas from Bacoor, Cavite.

The private sector is wary that conducting the auction and awarding the project to the winning bidder before the May elections will be fraught with controversy and risks. Prospective bidders want the government to delay the auction of the project by six months, or after the election period.

One interested company—Metro Pacific Investments Corp.—wants the auction on the new rail line held after the election period, or once new officials are sworn in, from the original deadline of April 5.

“Our country is not good in continuity of government. When the new government comes, there’s always changes,” says a Metro Pacific official during the pre-qualification conference. “It feels that they are really rushing it. We want to look at and understand the project.”

The official’s comment best describes the bad reputation of the government in honoring contracts with the private sector. The government time and again has earned the ire of local and foreign investors after reneging on the terms of contracts earlier agreed with project proponents.

READ MORE...

Maynilad Water Services Inc., for instance, sued the government before the international arbitration court in Singapore for not complying with the terms of the west zone service contract, after the water regulator refused to implement a rate increase. Maynilad’s case and other business disputes have raised questions on the integrity of contracts under the public-private partnership program of the Aquino administration.

The bidding for the Light Rail Transit Line 6 project, meanwhile, will be a closely-watched affair due to the presence of other notable bidders like San Miguel Corp. and Egis International of France.

Another misstep from the government will greatly reduce the state’s credibility in honoring contracts and cast serious doubt on the PPP program.


Editorial: ‘Why only me?’ posted February 20, 2016 at 12:01 am

The former general manager of the Metro Rail Transit 3, Al Vitangcol, this week asked the Supreme Court to tell the Sandiganbayan to stop trying him for graft with regard to the troubles of the rail line traversing Edsa.

Vitangcol is in trouble because one of the incorporators of PH Trams, the company that was engaged by the agency to undertake maintenance of the MRT, is his wife’s uncle. He says the Sandiganbayan is zeroing in on the conflict of interest issue when in fact, his former superiors Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and, before him, Secretary Manuel Roxas II, among others, should be held equally accountable for the decrepit state of the MRT.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters use the MRT every day despite the fact that it has been poorly maintained, with one malfunction or other occurring regularly. In 2014, a train derailed and slammed into the barriers and onto the street below, injuring dozens.

The issue has been a sore point among residents of the capital. And now Vitangcol says he is being sacrificed to placate the public’s feelings as the more culpable officials are getting away despite their gross and inexcusable inaction, if not willful and deliberate manipulation of the events and processes related to the maintenance of the rail system.

Meanwhile, those from the camp of Roxas and Abaya dismiss this as political vendetta—squid tactics that are convenient especially now that Roxas is running for president.

READ MORE...

In some respects, Vitangcol is in a better place than his former superiors. He at least acknowledges that there is a mess over at the MRT, and he was part of the group responsible for it. Where he is unfortunate is in the fact that he is “only” a Vitangcol. He is small fry compared to the names of his big bosses who should be protected at all costs.

The former GM likely does not relish the idea of being the fall guy, but somebody has to play the part. This is how it is: In the public transport sector, in police operations gone awry, in the illegal disbursement of public funds, there are other fall guys languishing in jail—or bad esteem­—alone for the sins of the many.

They are not any less guilty or any more deserving of leniency. This should teach all of them a lesson to not participate in shady transactions in the first place. It’s always going to be their necks out there, not anybody else’s.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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