Ricardo Saludo: HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE AQUINO?

"When somebody [said] Daang Matuwid, formerly I was also clapping my hands but whenever I hear Daang Matuwid now, come on, let’s be real. Sometimes I say: ‘Ang matuwid na daan tungo sa kanal.’ [The Straight Path leads to the sewer."] That is terrible, but I find it harder and harder to trust the President’s intention.— Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz. Let’s all get real, especially those still cheering every move and missive by the Palace and the administration. Some do so out of sincere if misinformed or blind admiration, others act out of political expediency and personal gain, especially those whose sycophancy quickly turned from outgoing to incoming leader back in 2010. As it surely would when Malacañang’s occupant changes again in 2016. But in these last 30 months of the incumbent administration, it is high time and in the overarching national interest, at least for those who do care for our sole republic, to remove any blinders, especially those put on by fawning media and politicians, and, as the good archbishop said, get real about Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd. In particular, the nation and its leaders and key sectors must open their eyes to his major failings, willfully downplayed, totally missed or even defended by mainstream media. Perhaps also too subtle for most citizens to notice, these pernicious qualities have spawned governance tendencies which threaten long-term fundamental damage to Philippine democracy, rule of law, development, and social welfare.

Also: Emergency Powers: Be careful what you wish for- Escudero

An administration ally yesterday warned his colleagues in the House of Representatives against offering President Aquino emergency powers in a bid to forestall power shortages in the country. Sen. Francis Escudero warned that giving the President emergency powers would have repercussions. He said the same situation arose during the presidency of Fidel Ramos, which resulted in high electricity rates. “Although I am allied with the President, I think these powers should not be volunteered by Congress. This is supposed to be sought by the President, not the other way around,” Escudero said. He said that even Energy Secretary Jericho Petillo was not even seeking them. “The emergency powers are delegated authority given by the legislative to the executive branch,” Escudero said. “If President Aquino and Secretary Petilla need emergency powers, it is just proper that they ask,” he said. When Ramos was granted emergency powers, Escudero said it resulted in the creation of independent power producers that caused higher prices of electricity. “That is why I am careful about (the issue of) granting emergency powers because in the past Ramos administration, we ended up having the most expensive power in the world,” he said in Filipino.

ALSO: Cruz slams PNoy over inability to curb graft

RETIRED Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz lashed out at President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday for his failure to curb corruption after more than three years, despite running on a platform of good governance and his straight path policy. It was under Aquino that a “Bureau of Corruption” was established, Cruz said, referring to the Bureau of Customs, which is widely seen as the most corrupt agency of government. In a television interview, Cruz said he supported the straight path policy at first, but became disheartened when he realized it was not being carried out. “Come on, let’s get real. I find it harder and harder to trust the present administration,” Cruz said. Cruz said Aquino’s problems were aggravated by his penchant for blaming his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been under hospital detention for more than two years.

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How do you solve a problem like Aquino?
 

MANILA, JANUARY 13, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) by RICARDO SALUDO, REPUBLIC SERVICE - First of three parts - When somebody [said] Daang Matuwid, formerly I was also clapping my hands but whenever I hear Daang Matuwid now, come on, let’s be real. Sometimes I say: ‘Ang matuwid na daan tungo sa kanal.’ [The Straight Path leads to the sewer.] That is terrible, but I find it harder and harder to trust the President’s intention.
— Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz

Let’s all get real, especially those still cheering every move and missive by the Palace and the administration. Some do so out of sincere if misinformed or blind admiration, others act out of political expediency and personal gain, especially those whose sycophancy quickly turned from outgoing to incoming leader back in 2010. As it surely would when Malacañang’s occupant changes again in 2016.

But in these last 30 months of the incumbent administration, it is high time and in the overarching national interest, at least for those who do care for our sole republic, to remove any blinders, especially those put on by fawning media and politicians, and, as the good archbishop said, get real about Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd.

In particular, the nation and its leaders and key sectors must open their eyes to his major failings, willfully downplayed, totally missed or even defended by mainstream media. Perhaps also too subtle for most citizens to notice, these pernicious qualities have spawned governance tendencies which threaten long-term fundamental damage to Philippine democracy, rule of law, development, and social welfare.

One leading columnist wrote that Aquino could go down as the second-best president ever. Consider the following failings, to be discussed through the week, and go figure:

a) Aquino disregarded and even undermined established statutes and institutions.

b) He practiced highly partisan governance, especially in anti-corruption efforts.

c) His combative, fault-finding approach (rather than problem-solving) created difficulties in addressing issues and crises.

These failings may not affect opinion polls much, and could even boost them with help from politicized media, but their effects are already creeping across the government. If they are not stopped, their impact on the culture of both politics and governance will be immensely adverse.

The lawless presidency
First of these PNoy failings, for which he remains utterly unrepentant, is the sweeping disregard for democratically enacted laws and established institutions. This trait was seen early on in his first Executive Order back in 2010 and the Palace insistence on its constitutionality despite a 10-5 Supreme Court decision declaring EO 1 unconstitutional.

The order violated the principle of equal protection under the law by singling out one administration for investigation by the Philippine Truth Commission it created. The High Court ruling suggested that the EO could clear this bar by simply expanding the PTC’s explicit scope. In short, adding an ‘s’ at the end of the commission’s mandate covering “the past administration.”

Former appeals judge Magdangal Elma, appointed Palace legal adviser, who had served in the Presidential Commission on Good Governance created by the president’s mother Corazon, urged that the PCGG be used to do the PTC’s job. Also created by the first Executive Order issued by the first Aquino president, the PCGG is empowered to undertake any probe the Chief Executive may order.

No dice. Aquino did not bother with those perfectly legal solutions. Instead, he unleashed the first of his many diatribes against the Supreme Court. The issue was put to rest only after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez quit after being impeached by the House of Representatives in the first use of pork barrel releases to unseat a constitutionally independent official. With his chosen Ombudsman ready and willing to target the Arroyo administration, Aquino found no need for the PTC.

Malacañang above all
Other open disdain and even disregard for law followed, prompting close Aquino family friend and veteran lawyer Senator Joker Arroyo to deplore shoddy work by Palace lawyers, which got three other early EOs haled to the High Court. But that well-meaning and much-deserved criticism fell on deaf ears: Aquino did not care much for legalities.

He went his merry way ordering the Department of Justice to withdraw the Oakwood Mutiny case in 2010, after six years in court and despite nationally televised evidence. With presidential approval, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima also desisted in appealing the junking of the Dacer-Corbito double-murder case against then fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson. Thus, Aquino added two allies in the Senate, including amnestied mutineer Antonio Trillanes 4th.

The biggest affront to the rule of law came in November 2011, when the administration went against a Supreme Court decision voiding de Lima’s travel ban on former president Gloria Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel. Even staunch Aquino ally and her mother’s former Justice secretary Senator Franklin Drilon found reason to caution against the willful disregard of the nation’s highest judicial authority.

But Aquino did not care to take orders from the Corona court. He lambasted it weeks later at the Criminal Justice Summit hosted by the Palace. Soon after, the President launched his unprecendented campaign to oust the Chief Justice, reprising the pork barrel inducements which ousted Ombudsman Gutierrez.

‘Pork Barrel King’
Aquino bristled at online posts calling him “Pork Barrel King.” Sadly for him, the label befits his rule in several ways. In his annual General Appropriations Acts since the 2011 GAA, the Priotity Development Assistance Fund disbursed with the assent of legislators, trebled from the past administration, topping P20 billion a year.

As widely believed and attested by legislators themselves, the Palace used PDAF releases to get administration measures passed and Gutierrez and Corona impeached. Thus, President Aquino’s own kingly clout in enacting laws and taking down perceived adversaries was built on pork barrel.

The Internet label itself was coined in reference to hundreds of billions of pesos in public funds which the President disburses without specific allocations enacted by Congress. Those monies include the Malampaya offshore gas royalties, the Presidential Social Fund, and most recently, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Last November, the Supreme Court rightly declared PDAF unconstitutional and set restrictions on Malampaya and PSF use. This month and next, it must further rein in President Aquino’s lawless ways by trashing the DAP, which circumvents the budget law by taking funds from GAA allocations, then spending the billions of pesos in false savings on programs and projects never even proposed in Congress.

President Aquino has assaulted the rule of law and the independence of co-equal branches of government. It’s time to get legal with himREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

FROM PHILSTAR

Also: Emergency Powers: Be careful what you wish for

MANILA, Philippines - An administration ally yesterday warned his colleagues in the House of Representatives against offering President Aquino emergency powers in a bid to forestall power shortages in the country.

Sen. Francis Escudero warned that giving the President emergency powers would have repercussions. He said the same situation arose during the presidency of Fidel Ramos, which resulted in high electricity rates.

“Although I am allied with the President, I think these powers should not be volunteered by Congress. This is supposed to be sought by the President, not the other way around,” Escudero said.

He said that even Energy Secretary Jericho Petillo was not even seeking them.

“The emergency powers are delegated authority given by the legislative to the executive branch,” Escudero said.

“If President Aquino and Secretary Petilla need emergency powers, it is just proper that they ask,” he said.

When Ramos was granted emergency powers, Escudero said it resulted in the creation of independent power producers that caused higher prices of electricity.

“That is why I am careful about (the issue of) granting emergency powers because in the past Ramos administration, we ended up having the most expensive power in the world,” he said in Filipino.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President has yet to discuss with his Cabinet the proposal seeking to grant him emergency powers.

“At present, the President’s directive is about studying and finding concrete ways to ease the burden of the public due to the huge increase in electricity rates last month which was temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court,” he added.

Coloma was referring to the move of power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to hike power rates by P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) due to higher cost of power bought from suppliers.

The Supreme Court has issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the rate adjustment in response to petitions filed by militant and consumer groups.

When asked whether the President is at least open to the proposal to grant him emergency powers, Coloma reiterated the issue has not been discussed in cabinet meetings.

Escudero thinks however that the power shortages will be inevitable in the wake of a pending petition questioning Meralco’s implementation of an unprecedented P4 per kilowatt- hour increase before the Supreme Court.

The power crisis will happen only if no power firm will be buying electricity from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) due to high prices of power.

Escudero thinks there is a need for Malacañang to explain why they need emergency powers.

Earlier, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone called on Congress to consider granting the President emergency powers to resolve the problems caused by high electricity costs and the lack of mass transit systems.

Evardone said the public is getting impatient with the two problems, which he described as potentially “catastrophic.”

Coloma, on the other hand, said the Department of Energy is coordinating with stakeholders of the power industry to ensure continuous supply of electricity.

“It is important for players in the power industry to act in a manner consistent with the public welfare as their business is imbued with public interest,” he said.

On Friday, Malacañang said the energy department is acting as mediator between Meralco and power generators as they explore ways to share power costs.

Officials maintained that companies in the power industry have the duty to ensure that services are delivered to the public.

Other lawmakers like Sen. Vicente Sotto III wanted to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.

Amend EPIRA

Congressmen also urged President Aquino to support proposed changes in the EPIRA.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela said the proposed amendments to the EPIRA would remain just that - proposals - and the status quo would continue without the President’s support.

They asked Aquino to give his blessings to bills seeking to amend EPIRA so that these would move through the legislative mill.

Albano said one simple proposal that has long been pending and which would surely result in the reduction of electricity rates is the abolition of the so-called “system loss charge” in the monthly billing.

He said system loss is electricity that is stolen through illegal connections or that is lost ue to various causes like bad weather while traveling through transmission lines and facilities.

“I cannot understand why law-abiding citizens are being made to pay for electricity that is stolen or pilfered,” Albano said.

What is worse, Albano pointed out, is that system loss charge is subject to the 12-percent value added tax (VAT).

“VAT is supposed to be for added value or service. Here, there is no value or service, and yet there is a tax,” he stressed.

Albano said he could not understand why such a simple proposal could not pass in Congress.

Maybe the President’s expression of support for it could get it moving, he said. -Jess Diaz, Alexis Romero

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Cruz slams PNoy over inability to curb graft
By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 09, 2014 at 12:01am



MANILA -RETIRED Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz (photo) lashed out at President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday for his failure to curb corruption after more than three years, despite running on a platform of good governance and his straight path policy.

It was under Aquino that a “Bureau of Corruption” was established, Cruz said, referring to the Bureau of Customs, which is widely seen as the most corrupt agency of government.

In a television interview, Cruz said he supported the straight path policy at first, but became disheartened when he realized it was not being carried out.

“Come on, let’s get real. I find it harder and harder to trust the present administration,” Cruz said.

In his last State-of-the-Nation Address, Aquino criticized Customs officials and employees for “trying to outdo each other’s incompetence.”

“Instead of collecting the proper taxes and preventing contraband from entering the country, they are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods, and even drugs, arms, and other items of a similar nature into our territory,” the President said in July.

But when then Customs chief Rufino Biazon offered to resign, Aquino rejected it immediately.

It was not until Biazon was charged with malversation for allegedly misusing his pork barrel funds when he was still a legislator that Aquino accepted his resignation in December.

Biazon’s successor, former Finance Undersecretary John Sevilla, wants to fill 2,823 vacant positions in the central office, ports and collection districts as part of an ongoing revamp.

Cruz said Aquino’s problems were aggravated by his penchant for blaming his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been under hospital detention for more than two years.

In all of his State-of-the-Nation Addresses, Aquino has mentioned Arroyo as a scapegoat, Cruz said.

Aquino, during the presentation of credentials of eight non-resident ambassadors to the Philippines yesterday, again played up his administration’s efforts to end “the vicious cycle of corruption and negativism.”

Cruz, however, reiterated his appeal for the Aquino administration to consider granting house arrest to Arroyo, who has been detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City for her alleged role in the diversion of over P300 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

“To me that (hospital arrest) is cruel. Why don’t you let her have house arrest? Where would she go [in her] physical condition?” Cruz said.

“There is no place like home to recover. If she were at home, she might be able to get her health back quite fast and quite easily,” he added.

Cruz, who was a staunch critic of Arroyo, visited her at the hospital on Saturday because of her failing health.

“The fact is, she is sick and she is under hospital arrest. The fact is she is not getting better so I was thinking that it was about time for me at least to settle the score... I asked for her kind understanding, to please understand where I was coming from and I sought reconciliation and she was very gracious,” he said.

Arroyo was also visited by former Vice President Noli de Castro Jr. right after Cruz left.

Last month, Arroyo was also visited by former President Joseph Estrada, whom she pardoned when she was still President, and the head of the Jesus Is Lord Movement, Eddie Villanueva.

In November, Arroyo also met with former President Fidel Ramos.

President Aquino, however, has refused to visit his predecessor.

“President Aquino has been very clear about this: there has to be accountability. While he does not harbor ill will against Mrs. Arroyo, the President feels such an idea (of reconciliation or visiting Arroyo) is not yet timely,” Aquino’s spokesman, Secretary Herminio Coloma, said.

But Coloma quickly added that the Palace respects the decision of other public figures who wish to visit Arroyo.

“Visiting Mrs. Arroyo is not a priority of the President at this point,” Coloma added.

Cruz himself advised Aquino against visiting Arroyo at the VMMC.

“It might just lead to pretensions because I think President Aquino’s blood is boiling at the sight of her,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s remarks echoed the views aired by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, which issued a statement expressing its disappointment with the Aquino administration..

“We were saddened with the news of continuing corruption and abuse on the use of public funds by some congressmen and senators,” the group said.

“We hold him to his promise of change. While it is true that there has been headway in the fight against corruption, much more remains to be done.”

“No big fish has been convicted since 2010 and with the way the tentacles of the corrupt have stymied the judicial process, Pnoy’s term might be over and the cases will still languish at the courts,” it added.

With a little more than just two years left in Aquino’s term, Cruz said he feared nobody would be convicted in the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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