IPU confab a tourism event in the hosts' eyes?
MAYBE IT IS: Listening to some high officials talk about the ongoing International Parliamentary Union assembly, one gets the impression that the gathering in Manila of the world’s legislative giants is mainly a tourism event.
Maybe it is.
If it is, then we are losing a rare opportunity for more meaningful reforms in the 145 nations represented by the 1,500 or so parliamentarians converging here for their 112 th general assembly.
Maybe it is.
Every year, we see our senators and congressmen — with their favorite traveling companions — departing for an IPU assembly somewhere, spending tax money and then returning with hardly anything to show for it.
Will the Manila meeting be any different, considering that even the hosts sound like they are holding a hospitality event rather than a forum of the world’s parliamentarians in search of consensus and legislation to improve the quality of life on this planet?
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SKEWED FOCUS: I got my first inkling of the hosts’ orientation when I heard Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye days ago saying in a radio interview and confirming it in a Malacanang press release:
“Those attending IPU conferences are usually the policy-makers in their respective countries, so it is very important that we show to the delegates the best of the Philippines during their stay in the country.
“When they return to their countries, they will have reports about the Philippines. It is very important, therefore, that they have a good impression of our country.”
That was a valid point, but I waited in vain for President Arroyo’s spokesman to say how the IPU could be a force for shaping world opinion and then passing legislation to address the world’s more substantial problems of poverty, security and such.
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WHO’S SECURITY?: Security was in the mind of the presiding officer, Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a press conference, but he was referring to the delegates’ safety while here and not to laws promoting the security of families, their homes and communities.
Drilon said: “At the National Security Council meeting, the President reiterated her specific instructions to Secretary Angelo Reyes and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to leave no stone unturned insofar as the security arrangements for the 112th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is concerned.”
Police officers have fielded thousands of policemen to protect IPU delegates from the usual hoodlums preying on tourists. Our local talents make no distinction between visiting Japanese farm workers and honorable members of parliament looking for fun.
“We are confident,” Drilon added, “that with the security arrangements in place, we can fully secure the delegates not only here in Manila, but also in the various tourist spots were the delegates have gone to.”
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MYANMAR: But on more substantive issues, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. urges President Arroyo to support Southeast Asian parliamentarians moving to exert pressure on Myanmar to comply with its commitment to institute democratic reforms, including the immediate and unconditional release of Nobel Laureate Daw Aung Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders in that country.
Pimentel challenged Ms Arroyo to back the call for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not to allow Myanmar to assume the ASEAN chairmanship in 2006 unless it fulfills its pledge to abide by democratic principles that it made when it joined the organization in 1997.
He said the President should not to take a hands-off stance on the pretext that the Philippines should not interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. That is not a valid excuse, he said.
The AIPMC consists of ASEAN legislators. In its meeting on the eve of the opening of the IPU’s 112th general assembly, the bloc adopted a resolution to stop political repression and restore democracy in Myanmar.
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HONEST PINOYS: Talking of tourism, we should be heartened to hear reports of two janitors at the international and domestic airports returning money and valuables inadvertently left by airline passengers.
Romeo Pelaez, a janitor at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, returned a bag containing three million yen (P1.5 million) left on a Japan Airlines plane by a Japanese and his Filipino wife. The janitor was cleaning the plane when he found the bag of money. He turned it over to airport authorities.
Nita Ramos, a 44-year-old janitress at the domestic airport, returned jewelry worth around P150,000 she found in the airport’s pre-departure ladies room at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. Authorities said they would reward the employees for their honesty.
Sen. Richard Gordon, a former tourism secretary, said: “These are not the only cases that Filipinos have proven honest and trustworthy. There was the case of a Filipino taxi driver in New York who also returned valuables left by his passenger. Similar cases of taxi drivers, bathroom attendants, waiters returning money and jewelry left in their premises by tourists in establishments in Manila and other places have also been reported.”
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DELINQUENT AWARDEES: Many housing projects being administered by the government experience low repayment by awardees. It seems that some Filipinos have the weird notion that the government owes them a living.
Some groups have even gone on a public campaign to stop paying their legal obligations for some reason or another. “Ang mga balasubas” (payment evaders) always find an excuse every time they decide not to pay.
The campaign has gotten so serious that personnel of the National Home Mortgage and Finance Corp. have had to warn President Arroyo of what they call the “blackmail” attempt to convince awardees not to pay their legal obligations or monthly amortizations.
The concerned NHMFC personnel pointed to what they called “misguided and misinformed groups and associations,” including certain “Community Mortgage Program originators” as behind the “blackmail” poised on the office of the President.
“The acts of these groups constitute not only the crime of economic sabotage but also sedition as it is against public order, authority of the governance and the general public’s welfare,” NHMFC personnel said in a letter to the President.
The CMP is a program being administered by the NHMFC for the past 16 years.
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NHMFC RECORD: The NHMFC under its president Celso delos Angeles delivered housing assistance last year to a 14,137 poor families worth P689 million. The NHMFC said in its latest report that its implementation of the housing program has surpassed nearly 50 percent of its target for the entire year.
The majority of CMP originators, comprising of people’s organizations, non-government organizations and Key Shelter Agency Employees assailed the move of the minority originators pushing for the transfer of this program to the proposed Social Housing Finance Corp.
Consultants who include UP Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones concluded after an in-depth study that the creation of SHFC “will only duplicate the operations of NHMFC.”
“This (the creation of SHFC) is perceived to be the most irresistible option, considering the strong pressure exerted by civil society’s organizations,” Briones said. The group found CMP to be a “successful program” as implemented by NHMFC.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the group said.
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HE DISAGREES: Now hear this reaction of Dr. Norberto Penas Jr. of Naga City to my comments on the demise of Pope John Paul II last Sunday.
- I said in POSTSCRIPT, “To go to heaven, one must first die.”Penas noted that Luke 9, 27 says one does not have to die first. “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” He also cited 2 Cor. 12, 1-4 “Nag-astral projection si St. Paul. Another name for AP is OOBE: out-of-body-experience.”
- I said in POSTSCRIPT, based on the Apostles’ Creed, that the risen Christ sat on the right hand of the Father.Citing Revelations 4, Penas said: “There are 25 thrones in Heaven. One throne occupied a central position. It is surrounded by 24 thrones on which sit 24 elders. It looks as if the central throne is empty, because whoever is seated on the throne is not described. Yes, there is a slain Lamb who stood in the midst of the 24 elders. Both the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb receive worship. Si Jesus ba itong Lamb? Cannot be. Jesus refused divine honor. A man called him “Good Master.” He protested, “Why do you call me good? Only one is good and He is God.” (Mt. 19, 17).