POSTSCRIPT / June 7, 2011 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Mar can’t accept job far from Malacañang

THE JOB: The presidency in 2016 is the core consideration in the prolonged haggling over The Job that President Noynoy Aquino must give Mar Roxas, who slid to the vice presidential slot in 2010 to make Aquino the victorious Liberal Party standard bearer.

I have not talked with either Aquino or Roxas, but my guess is that the latter will not accept any position or title that will mean his holding office outside Malacañang where he is likely to be “out of sight, out of mind.”

Even within the Palace compound itself, Roxas should prefer holding office in the same executive building as the President so he will be just two or three doors away from him.

The Palace floated for him the soon-to-be-vacated Department of Transportation and Communication. But Roxas did not bite since the DoTC does not meet the criterion of its being close enough to the President and the presidency.

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SLOW-MO: In the Palace setup, the logical post for Roxas is that of Executive Secretary. By law and tradition, the “Little President” habitually acts for and on behalf of the Chief even without prior instructions.

That post would be perfect for Mar. But what will Aquino do with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa? (It seems impolite to ask why the President cannot give Ochoa another office.)

Ochoa’s preemptive presence might explain the prolonged negotiations over turf and functions for the incoming presidential “trouble shooter” – an earlier tag that, significantly, has been dropped with reference to Roxas.

It has been ONE LONG YEAR since Aquino took the presidency and promised Roxas a big role in his administration as preparation for his clinching the presidency in 2016.

After one year, one would think The Job would have been figured out! Either the issues over commitments and reality are that complicated or some people are really that slow in making tough decisions.

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NO FORESIGHT: Another illustration of how slow officialdom thinks and acts is the recurring problem of lack of classrooms and teachers cropping up every start of the school year.

Everybody knows the national population, the number of children of school age, the annual increment (roughly 2 percent), the number of classrooms, desks, teachers, books needed, among other requirements.

The Department of Education can calculate in advance all requirements each year until 2016. So how come the government is always unprepared when millions of children show up for school in June?

Taxpayers and parents are entitled to an answer.

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PREDICTABLE NUMBERS: With some 27.5 million students expected to show up yesterday, the DepEd knows IN ADVANCE that with 50 students per classroom, we are still short of 28,344 rooms for elementary and 25,532 rooms for high school.

The department also knows that although we already have 361,567 elementary and 146,255 high school teachers, we still lack 27,270 elementary and 46,490 high school teachers.

The numbers are that predictable! So why did the government not build the required classrooms and hire the teachers in advance?

We do not have the money? But there are billions upon billions for pork barrel, junkets, bloated allowances, political dole-outs (“cash transfers”), intelligence and social funds, et cetera.

Weeks ago, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda even boasted that the Aquino administration has accumulated a budget surplus of some P22 billion.

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FREE & COMPULSORY: Is the problem lack of priority or concern for the youth’s education? Or are our leaders simply unable to think in advance?

The Constitution (Article XIV, Section 2 [2]) mandates FREE public education in the elementary and high school levels. For elementary pupils, going to school is even COMPULSORY!

But it seems that free and compulsory public education is hindered by our leaders’ inability to prioritize properly and to think ahead.

In my youth in the old hometown, when a youngster of school age was seen in the street during class hours, a policeman would accost him and the parents had to explain why their child was not in school.

What ever happened to compulsory education and truancy ordinances?

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SHARE SWAP: Properly managed, with government guidance, the share-swap deal that gave the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. majority control of Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) should benefit users of cellular telephones.

One fear of competitors and some celfon users is that the PLDT-Digitel deal could give rise to a monopoly or a duopoly to the prejudice of consumers.

The assurance of PLDT that DigitelMobile/Sun’s unlimited (UNLI) calling/texting service will continue and even ride on the state-of-the-art infrastructure of PLDT/Smart should calm the concern of Sun’s 14 million subscribers.

Earlier statements of Globe were more relaxed, probably welcoming the possibility of PLDT stopping the UNLI services of Sun eating into Globe’s CDE market. Competition should now goad Globe to improve its services and increase its 26.5 million subscribers.

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NO RESTRAINT: The statement of Globe lawyer Rodolfo Salalima during the Senate hearing last Tuesday that they were not questioning the legality of the PLDT-Digitel deal could prompt the National Telecommunications Commission to looking more kindly on the swap.

As pointed out by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, there is nothing wrong with the deal as it is just a case of two carriers joining forces to widen their reach and improve services.

There appears to be no restraint here, he noted, because PLDT and Digitel are not preventing Globe or any other telco from offering its services to the market booming with 72 million subscribers.

Predatory pricing seems unlikely at this point since the industry is being regulated by the NTC precisely to protect consumers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 7, 2011)

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