POSTSCRIPT / March 8, 2007 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Opposition running out of solid election issues?

TOP FIVE: The past two weeks, I have been talking to kung sinu-sino, but mostly to media men and assorted observers returning to Manila from the campaign trail, to get their field assessment.

Gleaned from their reports, the Top Five senatorial bets so far on the administration and on the opposition tickets are:

Team Unity (in alphabetical order): Ed Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Ralph Recto and Tito Sotto.

Genuine Opposition (alphabetical): Chiz Escudero, Ping Lacson, Loren Legarda, Kiko Pangilinan and Manny Villar.

It is still 67 days to May 14, Election Day.

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NON-ISSUE: This early, the scattered political opposition seems to be running out of solid issues to throw at the administration.

It has been reduced to making a big fuss over two cases filed against National Printing Office director Felipe Evardone — who just happens to be a kuya of Ben Evardone, the administration Team Unity’s media director.

Unless Philip is guilty (which has not been proved) AND is in cahoots with his younger brother Ben (which everyone I have asked do not think so), the latter’s prominent mention in the news report is irrelevant and malicious.

The big tabloid used in the “expose” reported that Philip has been recommended for dismissal by the Philippine Anti-Graft Commission based on its investigation of complaints of owners of two printing shops blacklisted by the NPO for being allegedly “notoriously undesirable” printers.

The paper sensationalized it by running it as a banner and highlighting the (irrelevant) fact that Philip is the older brother of Ben. (The latter, incidentally, is running for reelection as Eastern Samar governor while managing Team Unity’s media operations.)

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DELICADEZA: Using the big tabloid’s front page, the opposition said that Philip should have quit his NPO post out of delicadeza, given his brother’s being the TU media director.

What the opposition and the paper did not know, or already knew but conveniently left out, is that Philip had filed a leave of absence as early as March 1 after learning that his younger brother Ben had been recruited as media director.

I asked to be shown the letter and, there it was. His March 1 letter to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye (the Office of the Press Secretary oversees the NPO) specifically cited “delicadeza” as his reason for going on leave until May 15, the day after Election Day;

In response to the letter, Bunye issued on March 5 a memo approving his request, and another one designating Marietta de Guzman as OIC until May 15. She is a long-time career official of NPO, being the head of its Production Planning and Control Division.

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UNDESIRABLE: Philip also told me: “I was not even aware that there were cases filed against me before the PAGC.”

He explained that the normal procedure of the PAGC is to conduct investigations on complaints and makes recommendations to the Office of the President “without first advising or hearing the side of the government official who is the subject of the complaint.”

He said the cases were filed by private printers – identified as Bestforms Inc. and Eastland Printlink — that had been deemed “notoriously undesirable” by the NPO for alleged irregularities, including the printing of official receipts without the knowledge of the government agency concerned.

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PRINTERS BANNED: Philip added that another reason for the filing of the complaints was the NPO’s policy decision not to use private printers for printing ballots for this year’s elections.

Owing to fresh government efforts to keep the May 14 polls clean and orderly, he said, the NPO had stopped farming out to private printers the printing of election-related paraphernalia.

I sought out Ben for comment on the case. “I’m not my brother’s keeper, more so because he is an elder brother,” he said. In so many words, he said that Philip is old enough to know how to conduct his own affairs.

The Team Unity’s media director appealed to the opposition to leave him out of the NPO non-issue. “If the proper authorities find any proof of wrongdoing, they will know what to do,” he added.

* * *

MEDICAL CITY: Some friends who have gone to The Medical City on Ortigas Avenue in Pasig said they felt like they were in a five-star hotel or an airport facility when they stepped into its lobby. Having been there myself, I understand their impression.

MedCity has two nursing towers currently accommodating 500 beds (with provisions for 288 more), a podium housing special services, diagnostic facilities, and administrative offices, an 18-storey Medical Arts Tower with 280 doctors’ clinics; and a three-level parking area with slots for 1,000 vehicles.

The Medical City is the latest hospital, one of only two, to be accredited by the Joint Commission International Accreditation (JCIA) for maintaining the highest international standards of quality for healthcare organizations.

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PERFECT MARKS: The JCIA was established in 1997 as an affiliate of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a non-profit institution that evaluates and accredits health providers in the United States and about 80 other countries.

The Medical City received perfect marks for access to care and continuity of care, and quality improvement and patient safety.

“The preparation (for the accreditation) took us close to two years,” said Margaret Bengzon, head of The Medical City’s Strategic Services Group. “It was a major, organization-wide enterprise that required comprehensive and intensive systems review, re-engineering, documentation and training.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 8, 2007)

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