MANILA, AUGUST 7, 2012 (MALAYA) Written by DUCKY PAREDES  -  ‘The ones who should be working on these are not even talking to each other. In fact, it seems that no one among the expected implementers was even listening to the President’s SONA!’

IN his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino made a few promises.

Among them was this one: “This June, the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension project began to move forward. When completed, it will alleviate traffic in Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Cavite.

“In addition to this, in order to further improve traffic in Metro Manila, there will be two elevated roads directly connecting the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways. These will be completed in 2015 and will reduce travel time between Clark and Calamba to 1 hour and 40 minutes.”

The way it looks right now, however, while the President can probably get LRT Line extended all the way to Cavite, one has to seriously doubt if he can get the “two elevated roads connecting the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways.”

Why? Simple. The ones who should be working on these are not even talking to each other. In fact, it seems that no one among the expected implementers was even listening to the President’s SONA!

Clearly, if they want to see this done, Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas, Toll Regulatory Board executive director, former Marinduque Congressman Edmundo O. Reyes Jr. and Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, the main builder of infrastructure for government, ought to be sitting together to get this done.

Obviously, the President has more than done his part. He had talked to the two companies that control the two expressways that would be connected. The South Luzon Expressway is managed by Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. which is controlled by San Miguel Corporation headed by Ramon Ang. The North Luzon Expressway is managed by Metro Pacific Investments Corp, which is managed by Manny Pangilinan. The President got both to agree that each would build their half of the connection and they would start on this before the end of 2012, precisely to get this done by 2015.

In fact, Mar Roxas held a press conference in May at which he announced this agreement. So, why has nothing happened yet, one month after the SONA?

Possibly unknown to the President, the Department of Justice (DOJ), another Cabinet Office also reporting to the President, had earlier furnished TRB’s Edmundo Reyes, Jr., its opinion that the TRB’s power to regulate toll roads included the design and the actual construction of the infrastructure. In other words, according to the DOJ, it was not the DPWH that would do this. It must be the TRB!

Where does this put the President -- and his Cabinet Secretaries? Apparently, Reyes has already told Citra Metro Manila Tollways to proceed with the design and the actual work on the NLEX-SLEX connection which CITRA will apparently be managing since clearly, (from the way things look at the moment) the TRB will give this new tollway exclusively to Citra.

Right now, Secretary Singson is doing what he can to give back to his department the supervision and construction of this vital new road. After all, if the DPWH will not be building our roads, what is his department left to do?

Honestly, I don’t give one whit who gets this done. What bothers me is that from the way that things are going, it seems to me that 2015 will have come and gone and this promised missing piece that would decongest Metro Manila (since provincial busses will no longer have to pass though EDSA and other Metro Manila streets but will go straight into the other expressway) will still be a dream that remains unfulfilled.

Why does our President allow his own Cabinet to get in the way of things that need to get done? Does it mean nothing to his own appointees that the President has decided on the things that he wants done (even to announcing this in his SONA) that they will even create problems that the President had, in fact, already solved?

Clearly, having both tollway operators build their half of the connection would speed up things. This was probably what convinced Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan to agree with the President last May that “the two projects can exist simultaneously. There is enough demand. There is a common alignment, but the two will eventually separate.”

At that time, DOTC’s Mar Roxas called a press conference at which he said: “We don’t expect any hurdles or any major delays in the approval process.”

Citra’s proposal is a P25.4-billion, 14-kilometer.six-lame elevated tollway parallel to EDSA with exits at Buendia, Quirino, Plaza Dilao, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Boulevard, Sgt. Rivera and Balintawak.

MPIC proposes a 22.95 million connector road consisting of a 13.4 kilometer four-lane elevated expressway over the Philippine National Railway line from Caloocan to Makati.

According to the TRB, since the CITRA proposal was the original plan and had already been approved, Citra can start building. The MPIC “connector road” on the other hand, being a new proposal would have to be subjected to a Swiss challenge. One doubts that a serous Swiss challenge can be mounted, considering how cash-rich MPIC is.

Clearly, if the President’s men cannot find a way and seem unwilling to exert superhuman efforts to get these things done and quickly, our President is heading for a great embarrassment in 2015, just before his term ends in 2016. As a citizen, I want to see this done -- and on schedule.

The President’s mind Details Published on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 00:00 Written by AMADO P. MACASAET .

[PHOTO - President Benigno Aquino told reporters Thursday the presidential legal team was helping Justice Secretary Leila de Lima fight a petition to disbar her before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Our legal staff is working on it, helping her,” Mr. Aquino said. The President declined to comment when asked what he thought of the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) position regarding De Lima, who is a nominee for Chief Justice but is apparently having trouble being included in the short list. “Perhaps, we should just wait for the JBC processes to be completed before I make a comment. As you know, I have to wait for that list before I can decide,” Mr. Aquino said. Some members of the JBC have excluded De Lima from the short list of three candidates because of the disbarment cases against her, one of which is currently being investigated by the IBP. The JBC, which vets candidates for vacancies in the judiciary, will forward the short list to the President later this month.]

(‘It is abundantly clear that President Aquino wants De Lima to be Chief Justice for her personal loyalty to him.’ MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS' AMADO MACASAET)

PEOPLE have long noted that President Aquino is headstrong on matters that he believes would promote his “matuwid na daan.” That is variously translated that while he may not be considered the most intelligent Chief Executive this country ever had, he has a big heart, a heart that will carry him and this country through the campaign to stamp out corruption and restore the true meaning of democracy.

As he plods along, he is unconsciously revealing his real self. He might have lost his capacity to listen. And even if does, the target-shooting buddies, including Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, he brought with him to Malacañang, hardly have the competence or capacity to tell him the straight and narrow path to good governance.

How did it happen that at the time when his popularity rating is slowly coming down, he committed a mistake that will sink his acceptance by his people all the more? And he appears by what he has done that he is just as headstrong about it.

We do not know much about this lawyer Ed de Mesa, chief presidential legal counsel. We know less about his capacity or courage to tell the President about the legality or lack of legality of his moves.

We can say the same of Paquito Ochoa, executive secretary and former administrator of Quezon City, but most of all a constant target-shooting partner.

Ochoa and De Mesa are supposed to be the legal minds of the President. Maybe they do not have the mind or the President does not listen to them.

Otherwise, the President would not plunge himself into this abyss of bulldozing his way through the use of influence which, exercised by the Chief Executive, is variously interpreted as coercion, to make sure that De Lima is appointed chief justice to replace Renato Corona.

It is his undisguised desire to have a Head Magistrate loyal to him, not necessarily to the Constitution and the laws that should bother all of us. Clearly, it is for this reason that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, may not oblige President Aquino in his request, interpreted as pressure, to quash the disbarment and immorality complaints against the Mrs. De Lima he clearly wants to install as Chief Justice obviously for no other reason but personal loyalty to him.

This “loyalty” has no place in a nominee whose reputation is clouded with doubts about her fitness as a lawyer that brought her a disbarment case and her morality questioned by at least two complainants.

The complaints must be investigated by the IBP. Only a thorough investigation may clear or doom her. Yet without the investigation being completed, the President is said to have made a “personal request” to have Mrs. De Lima’s name included in the shortlist that the JBC will soon submit to the President.

In this sense, the President made himself the JBC. He wants De Lima’s name in the list because he will appoint her as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This fits to a T the ponencia of Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin that, as in the case of the appointment of Renato Corona, the President can pick a Head Magistrate without necessarily picking one from a list submitted by the JBC.

The difference is the President is exerting influence or pressure or “personal request” to have Mrs. De Lima’s name in the list. In effect, the President is drawing up the list and making sure that his favored candidate is included. Otherwise, he would not try to have the IBP accept Mrs. De Lima’s memorandum for reconsideration.

President Aquino has transgressed his Constitutional right to appoint the Chief Justice. He has abused the right by insisting on picking a secretary of justice who by law is an extension of the President’s office.

The presumption is a cabinet member who is appointed as Chief Justice becomes completely independent of anybody including his family. But how can that presumption be held valid when the cabinet official has a cloud of doubt hovering over her head and yet the President appears bent on appointing her.

We cursed Gloria Arroyo for appointing Corona as Chief Justice and majority of the Court who will retire long after he retires. Well, Mrs. De Lima will reach retirement age long after President Aquino steps down.

To make sure President Aquino is safe from the Court with De Lima as Chief Justice? If this argument was valid for Corona and Mrs. Arroyo, it should similarly be valid for Aquino and De Lima.

It must be stressed, however, that there has been no tinge of corruption in the Aquino government in the past two years. However, there are “other crimes” that De Lima can shield President Aquino from.

Naked violation of the Constitution made law when the Supreme Court so ruled as in the appointment of Corona during a period prohibited by the Constitution is a worse crime that thievery or corruption.

Robbing the people of their legal rights is worse than taking away food from their mouths.

We are not saying that this can happen in the Aquino administration with De Lima as Chief Justice.

We are merely suspecting that an opening would have been made. It is abundantly clear that President Aquino wants De Lima to be Chief Justice for her personal loyalty to him.

It is just as clear that the President would set aside the cloud of doubt over De Lima’s head in exchange for her presumed personal loyalty.

What did we accomplish for democracy in convicting Renato Corona?

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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