POSTSCRIPT / April 26, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Poverty and politicians: Twin Timorese troubles

TRO & TOR: In this land of dime-a-dozen TROs and failed biddings, do not be surprised if after great exertion, the Commission on Elections would just end up with a frustrated attempt to automate the 2010 polls at a stiff bill of P11.3 billion.

At the rate the TOR (terms of reference) are being revised and some bidders of questionable eligibility are massaged back into contention, there is the likelihood that whoever wins in the bidding, some losers will go to court to stop the award.

And when that happens, with the poll clock ticking inexorably, this nation of some 50 million voters would be thrown back to the Stone Age of mano-mano elections. And the usual dagdag-bawas artists take over, again.

When will the government be able to hold public biddings that stick? When will we ever see the end to losers sour-raping and judges selling Temporary Restraining Orders under the pretext of due process?

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PROFESSIONAL HECKLER: But before I forget: That item last Thursday on the eternal question of “Why the Chicken Crossed the Road” was posted by nd dianalan of the partidong-pandaigdigang-pilipino Yahoo group.

Dianalan never claimed authorship. Caught in the solid-state traffic on EDSA, I had no more time to track down the author. Until… yesterday, Loi Reyes Landicho, a political humor blogger, emailed us to claim paternity.

Many readers enjoyed Landicho’s piece. I did, too, especially after I touched it up a bit. But one reader bristled, saying that such flippant commentary did not deserve space on this serious (?) page.

For more of this heckler, follow this link:

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COMELEC CAKE: Tomorrow, the Special Bids and Awards Committee of the Comelec is scheduled to start baking the P11.3-billion cake that, hopefully, will not just end up in the freezer.

Until press time, we could not find a plausible explanation for the Comelec committee’s being described as “special.” Maybe some heckler or baker could help?

The committee certainly needs special talent to chacha around the track record of bidders whose previous contracts with agencies had ended up suspended or rescinded for being flawed or unsatisfactory.

The synchronized presidential and local elections of 2010 are crucial. Pagod na, sawa na, ang tao. Failure of elections could push this nation irretrievably into anarchy.

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TOR RELAXED: Full poll automation, as mandated by RA 9369, must not be entrusted to bureaucrats who lack technical understanding of automation or to operators with sticky fingers.

The bids committee is set to open tomorrow the proposals of the firms that bought for P1 million apiece the bid documents. The experience criteria have been relaxed to qualify more bidders.

The winner must be able to perform these tasks nationwide: (1) Lease of more than 80,000 “certified” optical scan machines with software, and supply printers and ballot paper, (2) provide electronic transmission of consolidated and canvassed votes, (3) handle nationwide training, technical support, warehousing, deployment, installation, pull-out, and system integration, and (4) conduct overall project management.

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ARAUJO DINNER: Having dinner with National Parliament President Fernando “La Sama” de Araujo of East Timor could be instructive, especially for those like me looking for high officials who remain simple, straightforward and self-effacing.

Araujo, 47, and his 41-year-old wife Jacqueline Aquino Siapno were guests of Senate Minority Leader Nene Pimentel and his wife Bing in an informal dinner last Wednesday at a Makati hotel. He was in a beige barong, and the senator in his regulation blue barong.

His wife, a native of Dagupan City, apologized for being a little late because she had to look after their five-year-old son Hadomi who begged to pass by a toy store. (The boy spent most of dinner time off his chair, assembling and tinkering with his toy dragon.)

She is the East Timor first lady since President Jose Ramos-Horta is single and Araujo is second in the Timor line of succession.

Jacqueline made the front pages days ago when she arrived unannounced and unaccompanied. She was met at the airport by her mother and they, with her son in tow, took the bus to Dagupan. The alarmed husband flew over and joined them.

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IPU CONFAB: La Sama (“you don’t mess with me”) is a nom de guerreof the former student activist who met Jacqueline in 1993 while in jail in Jakarta for resisting forcible Indonesian takeover of Timor. She was visiting the prisoners as a worker of Amnesty International.

In the dinner was Sen. Pia Cayetano, who with Pimentel and other lawmakers attended the recent Addis Baba (Ethiopia) conference of the International Parliamentary Union. Also present were East Timorese Ambassador Francisco Tilman Cepeda and his counsellor Francisco D. Fernandes.

Pimentel recalled that Aruajo talked to him at the Addis Baba airport before their departure and mentioned his being married to a Filipina. The senator invited him to dinner if he visited Manila.

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PROBLEMS: What are the top problems facing his nation of 1.2 million Timorese? Araujo mentioned poverty (the United Nations placed unemployment at 35 percent) and politicians who have no sense of duty.

Another problem is lack of infrastructure. Most of it was destroyed by Indonesia before it pulled out grudgingly and allowed it to exist as an independent state initially under UN protection.

East Timor depends on agriculture, and this could be a problem because much of the land is mountainous. They have some oil and gas deposits but, like the Philippines, they do not have the capital and technology to exploit them.

The government is helping farmers increase their yield, lending them tractors when they organize themselves into cooperatives to make mechanized farming feasible.

Under a bilateral program, many Timorese youths are enrolled in Philippine schools.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 26, 2009)

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