IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT President Aquino holds a Cabinet meeting in an open-air tent in Loon town, Bohol province, where they spent the night on Wednesday. The President distributed relief items and assured residents that there was no reason to fear another earthquake. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

LOON, BOHOL, OCTOBER 28, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Christian V. Esguerra, Connie E. Fernandez Inquirer Visayas -

It was like being a Boy Scout again.

That was how President Aquino found his overnight stay in Moto Sur village in the earthquake-devastated town of Loon in Bohol province on Wednesday.

Trying to make up for his absence last week after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake reduced entire towns in Bohol to rubble, Aquino showed his solidarity with the victims by sleeping among them in a military tent on Wednesday night.

After leading the distribution of relief stocks to evacuees, the President turned in and settled on a cot and tried to sleep, with the night breeze for air-conditioning.

Away from the comforts of his presidential palace, Aquino found the experience like “camping,” remembering his days with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

The tent was pitched on a rise overlooking the Lintuan Beach.

“It has a very nice view of the sea fronting Argao and Dalaguete towns in Cebu province,” a local official who asked not to be identified said.

The President’s tent was one of four pitched beneath a big molave tree on the rise, about 300 meters from the highway and 500 m from the evacuation center in Moto Sur, hometown of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and Loon Mayor Lloyd Lopez.

Sources said members of the presidential staff selected the site and made all the preparations themselves to avoid bothering local officials who had their hands full attending to the evacuees.

At the start, the sources said, the presidential staff members were looking for a house with a yard where the tents could be pitched.

But they could not find such a place, as most houses in Loon had been destroyed by the earthquake. They settled for the rise in Moto Sur, which proved just fine as it had an open space where helicopters could land.

Another source said the amenities were spartan.

The source said a makeshift washroom and rest room were set up near the tents and concealed from the public view with a tarpaulin. Water was supplied by tankers.

The source said she did not know who else slept in the presidential tent, but there were reports that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was among them.


The tents had open sides and Aquino appeared to have slept well, except for being shaken by an aftershock in the middle of the night.

DAYBREAK President Aquino steps out of a tent after spending the night on a narrow cot in the town of Loon. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

“I was able to sleep somehow,” he told reporters in the morning, recalling the aftershock.

“It was really cold so we slept with our jackets on,” he said.

He described the night as a “little vacation.”

The President looked out to the sea and appeared to like the sight of fishing boats coming in with their catch as a sign that life on the island province was creeping back to normal.

Aquino’s decision to spend the night on the island was much appreciated by the residents.

A local official said the President’s overnight presence strengthened the residents’ belief in the statement of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology that the island was not in danger from another powerful earthquake.

“I think it helps psychologically. It contributes to regaining confidence that Bohol is safe,” the official said.

Aquino, who had been consulting with Science Secretary Mario Montejo and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, said the people of Bohol should not be afraid of the aftershocks, which would not be in the magnitude of the main quake because the fault line that generated it had already released all its energy.


The President also tried to ease the residents’ fear of sinkholes, saying the island was being mapped for those holes using ground-penetrating radar.

He said the map would be finished in the first quarter of 2014.

He said he told Gov. Edgar Chatto and other local officials to see if the municipal engineers could work with the Department of Public Works and Highways to determine if the houses remained structurally sound so the evacuees could go home.

Aquino went to Bohol on Oct. 16, but left on the same day and traveled to South Korea on Oct. 17 for a two-day state visit.

That trip cost the government P12 million, an amount that critics said could have been spent for relief in Bohol and Cebu, the two islands that took the heaviest damage from the earthquake.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda reasoned then that the government had “lots of money” so there were enough funds for relief on both islands.

Gov’t now present

But many quake victims in Bohol complained that they had not received help from the government three days after the quake and accused the government of being absent at a time of great need on the island.

The victims said that when they finally received aid on the fourth day, it was good for only one day.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the President returned to Bohol to show his “solidarity” with the quake victims.

“Like a good father, the President reminded the residents of Bohol that the sooner they return home, the sooner their lives will return to [normal],” he said.

The Malacañang communications group released pictures of the President inside the military tent in Bohol and leading the distribution of relief.

Coloma said that as of 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the military had delivered 411,680 kilograms of relief items to Bohol and 36,287 kg had been distributed.

Citing a report from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Coloma said 186,901 food packs had been given to the quake victims.

“The directive of the President was to complete the distribution of two-week food packs,” he said. “This means that every affected family should receive food that would [last] for two weeks.”

Coloma said the President had ordered authorities to complete the distribution by Oct. 30.


Aquino moves to stem skid in ratings By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted 4 hours ago | 108 views

PRESS BRIEFING BY Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma.

In an apparent media blitz to stem dipping public satisfaction ratings, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has ordered Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma to help beef up Malacanang’s public information efforts and started on Monday to preside over some of the Palace’s daily briefings.

But Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda cautioned journalists against imputing any political color in the change in schedules because he and deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte welcomed Coloma’s offer of assistance since it frees their respective schedules.

“Secretary Coloma asked us if he can do alternated briefings with me and Abi. Since we’ve been doing this for more than three years, we were more than happy to accommodate him as this frees our schedule to do our other work like our daily meetings with the President,” Lacierda said.

“In fact, I decided to give him Tuesday, Thursday and the Sunday briefings,” he added, forwarding a message from Coloma where the latter wrote: “I can do MPC briefing on alternate basis with either of you.”

Coloma ecohoed Lacierda’s remarks. “We belong to one team, and that is the communication team of President Aquino. We are one in our efforts to deliver clear and correct information in a timely manner and to improve our communication system,” Coloma said.

“In everything we do, we are committed to our desire to further improve our work. Continuous improvement is part of the work ethic of this administration, and the communications team is not exempted from this,” Coloma said.

Coloma began holding press conferences this week, and will continue to do so every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Previously, only presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte held press briefings every day.

Under the new system, Lacierda will preside over the press briefing every Mondays and Wednesdays and Valte will do it every Fridays and Saturdays.

A Palace source said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. spoke with Lacierda and Valte this week to inform them of the new set-up. Ochoa reportedly underscored complaints from some media practitioners as well as the need to improve the communication system.

The need for additional muscle at the presidential briefings apparently emerged after Aquino suffered a 15-percentage point drop in his approval rations in the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations. A separate survey of Pulse Asia also showed that majority of Filipinos believe that the misuse of the pork barrel funds continued even during Aquino’s term.

Lacierda and Valte belong to the so-called “Balay group” that is associated with campaign team of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II when he unsuccessfully ran for vice president in the 2010 elections. Balay is the Visayan term for “house” referring to the Roxas family residence which was adjacent to Mar’s campaign headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.

Coloma, on the other hand, is part of the so-called “Samar group” associated with the President’s sisters Pinky and Ballsy as well as Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, which met at a house on Samar Street near Timog Avenue, also in Quezon City.


Why not send ‘troubleshooter’ Mar to DBM?

BY ALFDRED DALIZON (photo) Print Email: Published : Thursday, October 24, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 158

THIS is a food for thought for President Aquino. Amid criticisms over the handling of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program issues by Department of Budget and Management Sec. Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, several readers, the so-called “silent majority” have suggested to me an ideal replacement at the DBM: the Wharton-educated Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas.

“As far as I am concerned, Secretary Abad is already a damaged good so why not replace him with Secrtetary Roxas who is President Aquino’s chief adviser and ‘trouble-shooter.’ That for me would be the only solution to this problem,” a retired government official told me yesterday.


Digging from my files, I found out that the 56-year-old son of former Sen. Gerry Roxas and the grandson of former President Manuel Roxas is a graduate of the prestigious Wharton School who worked as an investment banker. Being an economist, the DILG chief would be ideal DBM chief who can help the President regain his lost satisfaction rating.

As Malacañang had acknowledged that the public outrage over the pork- barrel scam has dragged down the President’s satisfaction ratings, Secretary Roxas, who was elected senator with 19 million votes and the one who co-authored the expanded value-added tax law, could actually be the solution to “A-bad” problem.


The former secretary of transportation and communications who became the DILG chief in August last year following the untimely death of the well-loved Sec. Jesse Robredo has been named by the President as his government’s chief adviser and “trouble-shooter” in 2011.

The President justified his decision to make his defeated 2010 running mate his “trouble-shooter”, saying unlike Superman, he can’t run the government alone. He even said then that he shouldn’t be criticized for seeking help from “competent” people like Secretary Roxas.

Roxas initially was the Liberal Party’s bet for president in the May 10, 2010 elections, but he withdrew from the race following strong clamor for Aquino to run for president after the death of Aquino’s mother, former President and democracy icon Corazon Aquino in August 2009.


In 2011, the President said Secretary Roxas would be a big help in addressing the current problems of the administration like the impending MRT and LRT fare hike, and the rice importation problems in the National Food Authority.

“Identifying the problem, determining the correct solution, he (Roxas) will assist me in that aspect,” he said. “He can digest the same problems so that I will have more time in actually operationalizing the solution, rather than go in their investigation,” the President said then. This is exactly the reason why Roxas can be seen everywhere.


While calls for the abolition of the pork-barrel system continues and amid the Palace admission that the President’s public satisfaction ratings took a nosedive largely due to the PDAF and DAP scandals, retired Armed Forces and National Police generals are also closely watching the development.

These retired officers are the men who saw battles in Visayas and Mindanao where they led their men in fighting communist and Moro insurgents, unlike some of our politicians notoriously known for making papogi at the expense of their men.

To their credit, the retired generals are trying their best to insulate their active fellows from their stand and merely want all public officials to perform their duties as servants of their real “Bosses” -- the Filipino people.


Respected PMAyer, retired Gen. Ramon J. Farolan has mentioned the birth of the PMA Alumni Advocacy Group or PMAAAG to take a public stand on behalf of fellow Cavaliers who share similar sentiments of national interest.

When it comes to pork barrel, the PMAAAG, according to the retired Air Force chief who writes a column in a broadsheet, believes that: public officials at all levels, from the national government down to local government units, should totally renounce and move for the abolition of “pork barrel” in all forms; public officials who have been implicated in the misuse of their ‘pork’ should consider taking a leave of absence or resign from their positions, thus sparing the nation the agony of a protracted trial;

President Aquino should consider surrendering and submitting all unprogrammed funds, like the Malampaya Fund and the President’s Social Fund, from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to the budgetary process and oversight power of Congress; Congress, in turn, should provide the President with enough funds and elbow room to deal with contingencies subject to its oversight power.

The judicial branch, led by the Supreme Court, should spare the nation from lengthy proceedings, initiating reforms within its ranks and ensuring that speedy trials are done and proper punishments are meted out on the guilty.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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