POSTSCRIPT / April 11, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pampanga prepares for ‘second serving’

SHALLOW BENCH: Without meaning to comment on the qualifications of current nominees to the Supreme Court led by a former legal aide of the President, we want to ask why the quality of candidates to the tribunal have generally deteriorated over the years.

Wala na bang iba? Aside from those on the short list of nominees, are there no others in this land bursting with lawyers who stand out for their legal expertise, unassailable integrity and social conscience?

We recall that in one notable appointment to the Supreme Court, a legal eagle known mainly for his providing the legal framework for controversial Malacanang deals was named to the high court despite his reputation.

What do we now expect this justice to do when the same smelly deals he had packaged are brought before the Supreme Court? Will it be enough that he inhibits himself for the record?

We want to be able to regard Supreme Court justices with awe, almost with reverence. We want to banish the thought that a few of them were given the post as a reward for past services or were deployed as pointmen in fixing some cases if the need ever arises.

Justices and judges must not only be clean. They must also smell clean and look clean.

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CLARK DEVELOPMENT PLANS: Residents of Central Luzon are excited over plans of the Arroyo administration to accelerate the development of the region with Clark Field serving as focus. The first-class Clark airport has been renamed Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

But we were a bit taken aback by the ludicrous proposal of one Capampangan congressman to move the seat of the central government to Clark. The idea was as hilarious as that one calling our dusty town of Mabalacat the industrial capital of Pampanga and converting it into a city!

This plan of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to fasttrack the development of the Clark international airport named after her father is something to watch. All her cabalen are cheering and preparing to pitch in.

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SECOND SERVING STALLED: General Manager Edgardo D. Pamintuan of the National Housing Authority recalls that when the self-effacing Cong Dadong became president, he told his provincemates that they would have to wait for the “second serving” as he wanted to give priority to the rest of the country.

Alas, the poor boy from Lubao never made it to a second term (he lost to Ferdinand E. Marcos) and his provincemates who were patiently waiting for progress to overtake them lost their turn at the “second serving” that never came.

Even the sleepy town of Lubao hardly perked up during the term of Cong Dadong. Under former President Erap Estrada, the province was consigned to benign neglect by Malacanang. Erap never hid his disdain for Capampangans, who gave him his due drubbing in the 1998 polls.

Erap was particularly mad at Gov. Lito Lapid, a fellow action star who knew all the lurid secrets of his love life. He accused Lapid of going around the country bad-mouthing him in campaign rallies and political gatherings.

In a famous meeting in the province, Erap was captured on TV pulling back his hand and turning away when Lapid humbled himself and tried to take the hand of the visiting President. Erap never forgave him and his constituents.

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PAMPANGA ASTIR: Resolutely rising from the lahar and the volcanic ash of Mt. Pinatubo, Pampanga is now astir with development.

The fields are again green with sugar cane and other crops. New houses are replacing those destroyed by Pinatubo’s fury. Industries have resumed operation, and the free trade zone on Clark now boasts of hiring more Filipinos than Clark ever did under the US Air Force.

Pushing plans for this catalyst center of the region, President Arroyo has given instructions to amend the controversial contract of the Philippine Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) to remove a provision restricting the growth of competing airports outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.

That onerous provision prevents all airports outside the NAIA (whose Terminal 3 is being built and will be operated by PIATCO) from growing faster or as fast as NAIA. Seeing Clark downgraded, Capampangans have been protesting. President Arroyo is now correcting that discrimination.

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TOP-CLASS AIRPORT: The infrastructure requirements of Clark’s development would be a major economic impetus by themselves.

To make Clark the alternative gateway would require the upgrading of the North Luzon Tollway and the old railway running north from Tutuban. There is also a plan to finish a mountain road directly connecting to Subic Bay, Clark’s twin economic zone.

Breaking away from the restrictions of the PIATCO deal, Clark has been attracting its own commercial air traffic. This it can do because it has the strategic location and the required world-class infrastructure, including the modern airstrips built to the strict specifications of the US Air Force.

The public works and the human mobilization for Clark will mean the pouring of resources into the region. The resulting economic activity is expected to radiate outward to the rest of Luzon.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 11, 2002)

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