POSTSCRIPT / September 5, 2010 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noynoy saving his boys, not the other way around

UPSIDE-DOWN: The announcement of President Aquino that he was taking direct control of the Philippine National Police means that the Chief finally decided to make it clear that whatever was the previous or the current situation the buck stops at his desk.

This was how it should have been — before, during and after the Aug. 23 hostage-taking that had cost eight foreign lives and multiple black eyes for the Philippines.

Every Cabinet line secretary is an alter ego of the President. Whatever his man does or does not do on the job reflects on the Chief Executive.

We now have an unusual upside-down cake – with the President taking the heat for his men instead of his men absorbing the blows for the Chief.

Imagine the President taking the fall for DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, Undersecretary Rico Puno and PNP Director General Jesus Versoza!

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SLATE CLEANED?: But his taking full responsibility will not stop his critics from harking back to that Black Monday and reiterating that (with his boys’ fumbling) the President was/is responsible whether he owns it or not.

That the President was not at Ground Zero that day is immaterial to his critics. He may not be physically there, but his presence must certainly be felt! It was not — till 10 hours after the drama unfolded.

Now many people are wondering what would happen to the President’s earlier announcement that heads would roll. Has his taking full responsibility wiped the slate clean for his boys?

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STRIKE 3!: Opinion No. 38 issued by the Department of Justice last Aug. 18 should lay to rest the persistent attacks on the Laguna de Bay Rehabilitation Project as a midnight deal.

The issuance is actually the third DoJ opinion that the P18.7-billion project is valid, legal and binding.

Opinion No. 26 on June 13 said the loan agreement for the project is covered by official development assistance and is thus not within the ambit of the Government Procurement Act (RA 9184).

Opinion No. 30 released on June 23 said the loan contract is an executive agreement that RA 9184 respects, since it is provided by the Constitution.

With the latest opinion, detractors may want to drop their objections. As in baseball, Strike 3 means the batter’s out!

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OBSTACLES CLEARED: Opinions Nos. 26 and 30, issued by then Acting Secretary Alberto Agra, contended that the loan agreement “is wholly guaranteed by the Belgian government and considered an ODA as an executive agreement.”

Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima signed the latest opinion. It boosts the position of Baggerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDC), the company that worked on the scientific studies on the lake and pursued the contract.

The opinion weakens the arguments of other officials whose main interest seems to be to delay the project, oblivious of the fact that the project would boost inland fisheries, stimulate commerce and develop a ferry system between Manila and the lakeshore towns.

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ODA ISSUES: The opinion appears to now bind the Palace to redeem its pledge that it would not object to the project once it is determined to be covered by ODA Law.

Our laws say that any project that has a grant component of 25 percent is construed as ODA. In this case, its ODA component is higher than other projects that have been undertaken and completed.

The project has been in the works for years. Maybe we should not punish BDC and all those who spent time, money and effort to start the project going.

With this latest opinion, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be under pressure to issue a notice to proceed for the project meant to improve the quality of the lake, make it more navigable and hospitable to fish.

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NO BIDDING: Further, the opinions held that the “direct award of the Contract to Baggerwerken Deloedt En Zoon N.V, is supported by law as the procurement of infrastructure projects funded by ODA is excluded from public bidding.”

Additionally, De Lima held that the loan was guaranteed by the Office National du Ducroire-Nationale Delcrederedienst, the export credit agency of the Belgian government, and was denominated as “ONDD Buyer Credit Agreement.”

ONDD is an export credit insurer of the Belgian government and is authorized to represent the state. The loan has a grant element of at least 25 percent. It was approved by Fortis Bank, part of the BNP-Paribas Group.

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CA BACKS PWDS: People with Disability (PWDs) have found an ally in the Court of Appeals, which has upheld the 20-percent discount given to them on their purchase of medicines.

The CA turned down a petition filed by drug store operators, including the Drugstores Association of the Philippines Inc., Save More Drug Inc., Manson Drug  Corp., South Star Drug Inc., and Northern Luzon Drug Corp. which sought to nullify the 20-percent discount given by the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

In a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the CA’s 11th Division said the discount was constitutional because it is a legitimate exercise of police power.

 The CA said: “(W)hile the Constitution protects property rights, petitioners must accept the realities of business, and the State, in the exercise of police power, can intervene in the operations of a business which may result in an impairment of property rights.”

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TOTAL WELL-BEING: The appellate court did not buy the argument that the 20-percent discount should be limited to medicines that are connected with the particular disability of the PWDs.

The tribunal said the law, like the Senior Citizens Act, is intended “to give full support to the improvement of the total-well being of the disabled persons.”

It brushed aside the contention that the law violates the equal protection clause. “It was the intention of the law to grant the privilege of a 20-percent discount to all PWDs irrespective of their financial standing in life,” the court ruled.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 5, 2010)

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