POSTSCRIPT / May 26, 2005 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Suddenly, all of Luzon is virtually jueteng-free!

CLARK FIELD, May 25 — Dignitaries and officials, including President Arroyo as guest speaker, have gathered here for the investiture today of Dr. Emmanuel Y. Angeles as the first chancellor of the Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga.

To be installed in the same rites at the Holiday Inn Resort in this former US air base is Dr. Ricardo P. Pama as AUF president, the third chief executive of the 43-year-old Catholic university.

The school was established on May 25, 1962, by the family of spouses Agustin P. Angeles and Barbara Y. Angeles. In 1971, after less than nine years of operation, the school was elevated to university status.

On Dec. 4, 1975, the university was converted into a non-stock, non-profit foundation. The Angeles couple and their children — Rosario, Lutgarda, Emmanuel, Antonio, Jesusa, Josefina and Lourdes — donated their shares to the foundation and thus gave up all proprietary rights.

A major milestone in its history was the opening to the public in February 1990 of the five-storey, 125-bed AUF Medical Center that is now the university’s teaching, training and research hospital, the first ever in Central Luzon.

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CLARK STINT: Dr. Angeles was the immediate past president of the Clark Development Corp. that is managing the growth of this special economic zone into a dynamo for the development of Central Luzon.

The more visible economic activities in Clark’s more than 34,000 hectares are in the leisure and sports estates, duty-free shops, more than 300 factories/regional offices and a world-class international airport named after former President Diosdado Macapagal.

President Arroyo is rushing a dedicated four-lane highway connecting Clark and the Subic Freeport. The new road is expected to stimulate commerce along the growth corridor and push development to the Tarlac area.

The linkup will give landlocked Central Luzon a seaport (Subic) and an airport (Clark) to efficiently bring in imported raw materials and ship out export products.

With more and more locators coming in, Clark now employs three times the number (12,000 or so) of Filipinos working on base before an angry Mt. Pinatubo chased away the Americans in 1991.

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JUETENG GAME: A dramatic development yesterday was the disappearance of jueteng in almost all regions of Luzon after President Arroyo declared an “all-out war” against it.

Senior Superintendent Leopoldo N. Bataoil, Philippine National Police spokesman, said that with PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao cracking the whip, jueteng has disappeared in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4B and the National Capital Region.

But in Regions 4A, 5 and the Cordilleras, he added, there was still sporadic “guerrilla-type” jueteng being played.

Lomibao is enforcing a “one-strike” policy whereby local police chiefs, as well as regional, provincial police directors, are relieved if jueteng is found even just once being played in their areas. He said the earlier “three-strike” rule may have been “too kind or too lenient.”

The thing to watch here is how long the suspension of jueteng will last.

Have the big boys simply been told to lie low while the storm rages? Will they spring back to action once the subject of juetengis forgotten by a population famous for its short span of attention?

* * *

GMA — NO PAYOLA: Last Monday, President Arroyo also said something very clear that many of us have been waiting to hear from the embattled chief. “I can assure you,” she said. “I am one president that did not receive any payola.”

She was then receiving Christian evangelical bishops, at least 20 of them, taking a break from their conference in Quezon City. Her declaration came amid insinuations that her husband and a congressman-son have been receiving tong from jueteng operators.

Bishop Bienvenido Abante of the Alliance of Baptists Council said of Ms Arroyo: “She told us very frankly that never did she receive any payola. And we believe that. I don’t think that the President would lie before all the bishops.”

I, too, believe that disclaimer of hers.

* * *

NO CONFRONTATION: Should educational pre-need firms in financial trouble be dealt a punitive deathblow or should they be helped to nurse their finances back to health?

An alliance of holders of educational pre-need plans is warning that “a confrontational approach” to compel foundering pre-need firms to honor their instant obligations “may only be a disservice to the ordinary planholders in both the short and long term.”

Dave Diwa, chairman of the Coordinating Alliance for Reform and Empowerment in the Pre-Need Industry (CARE-PreNeed) composed of planholders affected by the financial woes of Pacific Plans Inc., said “constructive engagement” among all the concerned parties is the key to resolving the issues affecting the company and the P175-billion pre-need industry as a whole.

“If government goes out of its way to guarantee the viability and profitability of the independent power producers (IPPs), or even re-takeover Maynilad Water, we see no reason why it cannot also do something to relieve the pressure on the pre-need industry since it represents the future of our youth,” he said.

* * *

TOTAL COLLAPSE: Speaking at the Kapihan sa Sulo in Quezon City last Saturday, Diwa said: “Constructive engagement leading to a fair, equitable and sustainable rehabilitation plan arrived at under the spirit of mutual trust and understanding between PPI management and the groups representing the planholders is the best approach under the prevailing circumstances.”

CARE-PreNeed is an alliance of labor unions, farmers and entrepreneur groups, home owner associations, non-government organizations and people’s organizations, many of whose members are PPI planholders.

Another umbrella group, the Alyansang Reporma at Ugnayang Galing at Aruga sa Pre-need (ARUGA-PreNeed) said it has a viable alternative plan to rescue the local pre-need education industry from “total collapse that would imperil the future of millions of beneficiaries.”

While seeking a middle ground in sorting out the issues, the group said it was not swallowing the rehabilitation plan submitted by the PPI management before the Regional Trial Court in Makati City.

* * *

BOOTY CAPITALISM: On issues affecting port operations, maritime industry specialist Vicente Gambito recalled the “booty capitalism” analysis of Secretary Romulo L. Neri, NEDA director-general, when he was still with the Congressional Budget and Planning Office.

Neri talked of “booty capitalism” in connection with industry problems and his introducing the idea of the Coalition for Shipping and Ports Modernization to then Bulacan Rep. Willie Villarama.

Gambito said, “This was during the time when, early in the Arroyo administration, we thought there was some salvation from the consortium of monopolists plotting to take over the entire Philippine Ports System through Executive Order 59 signed by President Estrada.

“Neri has been kept abreast of developments concerning the regulatory capture of the maritime agencies of government, the Port Authorities and MARINA. By now, I guess Neri has been able to eyeball some real ‘booty capitalists’ in Malacanang.”

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NO LONGER FACELESS: Neri now has an opportunity to confront these “booty capitalists” with some of their boys apparently caught red-handed by the Ombudsman, as he sits as a member of the PPA Board, Gambito said.

Since Neri has lectured about government’s serious efforts to fight corruption, Gambito said: “Can he perhaps start with the top officials at PPA and the Cebu Ports Authority in having the Ombudsman’s orders implemented?

“It was not very nice seeing Port Manager Leopoldo Bungobong slinking out of the committee hearing last Monday after it was reported that he has continued to hold on to his position and perhaps continue to influence the easy passage of petitions for rate increases in his jurisdiction notwithstanding an order by the Ombudsman dismissing him.

“He did this when some congressmen started asking who he was and what was it he did that led to his dismissal by the Ombudsman.

“The ‘booty capitalists’ of Neri are no longer faceless. Is he ready to do something about them besides telling us that things have to be changed? Can he now start the ball rolling?”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 26, 2005)

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