POSTSCRIPT / February 15, 2007 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Is it goodbye for this nation after May polls?

SAD REALITY: Here is an email whose message is so clear and so compelling that any reader whose mind has not been warped by partisan bias will be able to catch it.

Harvey S. Keh of Pathways (harveykeh@gmail.com), explaining why a young man like him might just give up and decide to leave the country after the May elections, said in his email (slightly edited):

“Before I begin my letter… just a disclaimer. People who know me know that I love the Philippines very much and that I am not really one who rants and complains to high heavens about what is happening to our country and does nothing about it.

“In fact, I feel that at my relatively young age of 27, I have done much service to the Philippines by setting up Pathways to Higher Education which has sent more than 500 poor but deserving students to college and AHON Foundation which has built two public elementary school libraries benefiting more than 3,500 students.

“Yet, after seeing how events in our nation have transpired the past few weeks and talking with some friends, I feel the urge to share my thoughts and feelings.

“Over the weekend, we saw the completion of two major political alliances for this coming Senate election. Now we have two political forces with familiar faces nonetheless on opposite sides of the fence.

“On one end, you have Tito Sotto and Tessie Aquino-Oreta who were two major stalwarts of the opposition and the FPJ Campaign in 2004 now hobnobbing with the woman (President GMA) whom they claimed to have cheated FPJ in the last presidential elections.

“On the other end, you see Manny Villar, the former House Speaker who was responsible for impeaching Erap, now part of the United Opposition that is led by no less than… Erap himself.

“If you don’t see anything wrong with this picture, then you must be one of the many Filipinos who have accepted the very sad reality that there are indeed no permanent ideals that our government leaders stand up for but rather they just go where their self-interests can best be served.”

* * *

TRIGGER ITEMS: Harvey went on: “It is with these in mind that I’d like to share with you what events in the coming May elections will make me consider leaving the Philippines:

“1. If former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of “Hello Garci’ fame wins in his bid to become congressman of Bukidnon, seeking to replace a good man no less in incumbent Rep. Neric Acosta. We would be the laughing stock of the world if we allow a man with the reputation of Garci to be one of our so-called “Honorables.’

“2. If “Dancing Queen’ Tessie Aquino-Oreta reclaims her seat at the Senate. I hope that all of us will remember that dance that she did during the 2001 impeachment hearings after they voted to overrule the decision of then Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Let us make sure that people like her never make it to the Senate again.

“3. If actor Richard Gomez becomes a senator. What does he know about making laws? We already have the likes of Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid in the Senate and their performance or lack of it would be reason enough not to elect to the distinguished halls of the Senate

“4. If Gringo Honasan wins again. Have we not learned our lesson? I cannot believe that just because someone is supposed to be charismatic then we just elect him senator — despite the fact that he has time and again caused so much instability. If we want a military junta similar to that of Thailand , then let’s all vote for this guy.

“5. If boxer Manny Pacquiao becomes congressman of General Santos City . Everybody loves Manny the Boxing Champ — but Manny the Lawmaker? Let’s be realistic, Manny is our hero all right, but it takes more than just great boxing skills and a desire to serve to be able to make appropriate laws to help uplift the lives of the many who live in poverty.

“6. If Lito Lapid wins as mayor of Makati City . I don’t like Jojo Binay as well, but Lito Lapid as mayor of the country’s finance and business center?! Do you really think he is from Makati and has good plans for the city? The Arroyos’ asking someone like him to run just goes to show you how much love and concern this administration has for our country.

“7. If Chavit Singson becomes a senator. Illegal Gambling = Chavit. Enough said.

“It is time that we Filipinos became more vigilant and critical in selecting our leaders for the sake of future generations. Huwag na tayong magpaloko sa mga kandidatong maganda lang ang jingle o guapo lang sa mga poster. Let us choose leaders who have a good track record for service and who are genuinely committed to serving our country.”

* * *

VOTERS PESSIMISTIC: And here comes the research group IBON Foundation’s nationwide survey last month showing that 71 percent of 1,493 respondents (or 7 out of every 10) did not believe the Commission on Elections can conduct clean elections on May 14.

If the polls would be shot through with fraud and violence, as in the past, where do we go for our salvation? What is the alternative to an inept Comelec?

Of the total respondents, 64 percent believed there was truth to allegations that President Arroyo cheated during the 2004 elections, down from 69 percent in the October 2006 survey.

The survey was conducted nationwide Jan. 8-18 with a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

* * *

YAP ON THE JOB: While the politicos are all over foisting their gimmicks on the people, over at the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Arthur Yap is busy attending to his assignments to boost productivity, create jobs and bring in hard investments.

The young technocrat carries the distinction of having been the only Cabinet member confirmed by the bipartisan Commission on Appointments on the day before the Congress adjourned for a five-month break that includes the May elections.

His confirmation came right after the committee on agriculture headed by Liberal Party Rep. Danton Bueser unanimously approved in less than 10 minutes his posting at agriculture.

Yap, btw, was also named agriculture secretary shortly after Edsa Dos, but resigned before the 2004 elections out of delicadeza in connection with a graft charge filed against him but which was later proved in court to be false.

* * *

CLASS ACT: The members of Bueser’s agriculture panel who crossed party lines to confirm Yap were senators Alfredo Lim, Jinggoy Estrada and Richard Gordon, and congressmen Aurelio Umali, Prospero Pichay, Ed Veloso and Manuel Ortega.

Gordon recalled the time when Yap promptly stepped step down as agriculture secretary to first clear his name of charges. The senator praised him for this “class act,” adding that Yap is a young and hardworking man of vision and integrity.

Estrada may have his own reasons for endorsing the secretary, who happens to be the godson of his father the former president, but he did mention that Yap is “the best Cabinet secretary in the Arroyo Cabinet and one of the most competent.”

Bueser himself cited Yap ‘s “vision, capability, work ethic, energy and drive to help President Arroyo deliver on her promise to raise the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk and at the same time widen the access of ordinary consumers to cheaper food.”

* * *

HIGH INCOMES, LOW PRICES: Bueser took the occasion to point out that policy and action in agriculture will have to “transcend the standard goal of higher farm yields, because this will not be enough to ensure the economic deliverance of the masses in the countryside.”

The congressman said the DA must transform production surpluses into higher incomes for farmers by opening new markets here and abroad. It must explore new agribusiness fronts to create more rural jobs and lower the prices of foodstuff, he added.

With the rest of the CA members, he expressed confidence that Yap is the right man for this tough job.

* * *

INVESTMENTS: Bueser noted that Yap has targeted a 4-5-percent growth for the agriculture sector this year and a higher 7-8 percent in 2008 by spending on seed technology and irrigation to improve harvests.

The DA is pouring more money into cold storage, mobile ice plants and other refrigeration facilities as well as post-harvest systems to cut crop losses arising from inadequate storage.

Barely a month after his return to the DA in 2006, Yap was able to haul in some P9 billion-worth of agribusiness investments from China alone. The projects include the developing of over 1.2 million hectares of idle but arable land.

These investments, among the 17 memorandums of agreement (MoAs) signed by the Philippines and China last month during the state visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao, are designed to widen market access for farmers and fishermen and create jobs in the countryside.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 15, 2007)

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