POSTSCRIPT / January 18, 2011 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy didn’t ask about Gloria -- Macalintal

OVERREACHING: There is sense and logic in the observation of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that the order of a US judge in Honolulu to pay victims of human rights violations during Marcos martial rule cannot be enforced in the Philippines.

While US District Judge Manuel Real may issue decisions left and right touching on rights of plantation workers in Hawaii, he has no power to dictate payment of compensation to Filipinos brutalized in the Philippines.

Unless a constitutional shuffle occurred while I was asleep last night, I think American courts have ceased to exercise jurisdiction over this independent Republic and its citizens since July 4, 1946.

One problem, though, is that some Philippine officials who do not have the same sense and logic have been collaborating with the Hawaii court to deliver payment to the victims.

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HOW TO PAY?: The money will come from Marcos property in Texas and Colorado valued at $10-million. After 25 percent, or $2.5 million, is taken by lawyers and informers, only $7.5 million is left for the 7,526 victim-claimants.

How will the American judge cause payment of $1,000 (P44,300) for every Filipino claimant in the Philippines?

Will it be through Philippine officials who do not mind debasing themselves by acting as paymasters of a foreign court? Or will Real, who behaves like he has control over the money, assign the victims’ lawyers to hand it out?

A Philippine law mandates that proceeds of recovered ill-gotten Marcos wealth go to a special fund for agrarian reform, so what circuitous route will recovered assets take to reach torture victims?

The Aquino administration is not likely to channel to agrarian reform the wealth found in Texas and Colorado. President Aquino even said he wanted bigger compensation for victims of martial rule brutalities.

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ASKED TO SQUEAL?: I called lawyer Romy Macalintal after somebody told me he was the first choice as Commission on Elections chair but that he declined when asked to talk about then President Arroyo’s alleged manipulation of the 2004 elections.

“No, that’s not true, that’s an unfair accusation,” he said. “President Aquino never mentioned GMA and the 2004 polls.”

Macalintal speculated that he was considered, because he lawyered for Aquino in the 1998 election for congressman of the 2nd district of Tarlac. He noted that he was not recommended nor nominated, nor did the President ask for his bio-data.

“I had the feeling I was his first choice, because he said he liked my principle and integrity as a lawyer,” he said. “PNoy gave me time to think it over when I told him I would consult my family.”

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NOT YET TIME: Macalintal continued: “I believe the President would have announced my being chosen had I immediately accepted when I met him last Monday (Jan. 10).

“When I received a call from Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa last Monday to meet the President, I thought it was because he had agreed to recite love poems in my radio show over DWBR to which I’ve invited him a number of times, but (Ochoa) said it was more than that.

“In my letter last Friday, I politely declined, because my family believed this is not yet the appropriate time for me to receive such a very tough job as Comelec chair.

“I thanked him for that very kind gesture of calling me up just to tell me he was considering me. Just to be called by the President for such a very sensitive position is already an honor.”

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FOOD SECURITY: Reacting to my Postscripts on food security, Dennis B. Araullo, assistant agriculture secretary for operations and national rice and corn program coordinator, said in an email:

“We fully agree that ‘the answer to widespread hunger and poverty is NOT the handing out of billions…’ that ‘the answer is in a wholistic food and job strategy…’ and that ‘we can make our country… self-sufficient in food, particularly rice.’

“However, please allow us to refute that the Aquino administration did bother to put together a food self-sufficiency program, and we did not discard an ongoing rice self-sufficiency program or RSSP, because it was prepared by the previous administration.

“On the contrary, the Aquino administration has enhanced and reconfigured the RSSP to become the Food Staple Self Sufficiency Plan or FSSSP. It integrates the enhanced RSSP with the ‘National Food Authority (NFA) Roadmap.’”

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SUFFICIENCY: Araullo continued: “To attain rice self-sufficiency, it is necessary that investments in irrigation, palay production and postharvest operations be increased and ‘frontloaded,’ coupled with the implementation of needed fundamental reforms in NFA operations. Rice self-sufficiency could be attained by 2013 at the earliest.

“The total budget to implement the FSSSP is P141.94 billion, from 2011 to 2016. The plan was recently approved by the country’s economic managers. And it will be presented to President Aquino for his approval.

“The economic managers have agreed and committed to frontloading the FSSSP budget by 2012 and 2013. Thus, the DA budget for the FSSSP in the next six years will be assured.

“As part of our strategies, we will focus our intervention on long-term, ‘hard’ infrastructure — such as irrigation and post-harvest facilities like dryers and grain silos and terminals — rather on subsidies (e.g. seeds, and fertilizers).

“We will also speed up the provision of credit through the Land Bank of the Philippines. We will empower the rice seed growers by providing them continuous training and incentives.

“We will also promote other staples as rice substitute — which include ‘saba.’ white corn and cassava, among others — to ease the pressure on rice supply.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 18, 2011)

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