MANILA, JULY 7, 2007 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe - President Arroyo’s forthcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) would focus on her legacy, with “a lot of physical proof” of peaceful, safe and booming communities across the country.

To help the President achieve this, the Department of the Interior and Local Government will strengthen local governance and further improve the capability of law enforcers.

“Legacy, from the President’s standpoint, (she wants) to make sure there are a lot of physical proofs of her administration’s achievement. This legacy phase simply means that government will focus on enabling all Filipinos to reap in full the dividends of the country’s impressive economic turnaround on the Arroyo watch,” Puno said during his speech at the DILG Night of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) held Thursday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City.

Puno said pursuing “restorative justice” in the local prison system; improving the capabilities of the fire-fighting corps, and building on the strengthened autonomy of LGUs, will also be done “to help the President deliver the social benefits of the country’s 26 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth.”

On peace and order, Puno noted that while the current Philippine National Police administration managed to score significant gains in the war against criminality with a crime solution efficiency rate of 88 percent, he wants it to further improve its performance by getting the citizenry more involved in community-based law enforcement initiatives.

The DILG chief said that the PNP has been implementing various community-based law enforcement projects, among them the COPS program, which involves the establishment of Kababayan Centers, police community precincts and Barangay Information Networks.

He added that the DILG is also preparing the PNP for its task of arming law enforcers with more legal weapons, to neutralize terrorist threats from the Abu Sayyaf and other groups.

Puno said the DILG will also continue to upgrade the country’s fire-fighting capability this year by procuring more fire trucks and breathing apparatus for the elements of the Bureau of Fire Protection, who make do with inadequate gear in performing their extremely hazardous task.

In pursuing restorative justice, Puno said the DILG, through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), is undertaking initiatives to improve conditions in the country’s municipal, city and district jails and prepare inmates for their eventual reintegration into society.

He added that the youth facility for children in conflict with the law (CICL) or minor offenders that was constructed last year inside Camp Bagong Diwa, is now fully operational and aptly called the CRADLE, or the Center for Restorative Activities Development and Learning Experience.

“To boost the morale of the men and women of the PNP, BFP and BJMP and raise their living standards, the government has provided them with higher subsistence allowance and hazard pay starting this month while it continues to implement measures to help them acquire affordable housing units,” he said.

Remembering Max

At the DILG night of the MOPC, Puno said Max Soliven, the late publisher of the Philippine STAR and MOPC chairman, is being missed by many, and they include people who got favorable and unsavory criticisms from his daily column “By The Way.”

“His (Soliven’s) loss is felt in all sectors,” said Puno.

Soliven died of cardiac arrest in Japan last Nov. 24. His remains were cremated in Tokyo, Japan and his ashes were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

“I miss Manong Max, whose column I’m very nervous to read because of his frankness and for being known as a hard hitting journalist. But as we look at it, his columns whether negative or positive have been very helpful to us,” noted Puno.

Puno recalled that he was supposed to meet Soliven during the first DILG night of the MOPC last Nov. 16. Soliven served as the chairman of MOPC until his death.

“However, he was in Japan then and failed to make it here,” said Puno.

Soliven is considered an icon in the Philippine journalism with a career that spanned six decades. He co-founded the STAR in 1986.

Soliven will be posthumously awarded the Order of Lakandula (rank of Grand Officer) by President Arroyo.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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