POSTSCRIPT / July 24, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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True state of the nation is in each Filipino’s guts

MABALACAT CITY – This 300-year-old town in the northern edge of Pampanga is now a proud city, becoming the province’s third after San Fernando (the capital) and Angeles.

Citihood was attained shortly before midnight last Saturday after a 72-percent “Yes” vote in a plebiscite, the last step under RA 10164 converting this first class municipality of 215,650 into a component city.

Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales, coming in as the first city mayor together with the other incumbent officials, sees faster growth, especially with the expected increase in the city’s Internal Revenue Allotment from the national government and the influx of more businesses.

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MORE REVENUES: As a contiguous town to the Clark Freeport, Mabalacat received P170 million last year as its share in the gross revenue of 841 Clark locators. The city supplies a fifth of the 66,223 workers employed by them.

Around 75 percent of Clark’s original land area was carved out of Mabalacat, but many out-of-towners erroneously think the former US air base is in Angeles because the main Balibago gate is there.

Mabalacat’s income from Clark and its P529-million IRA share last year helped the administration upgrade essential services and give the town a facelift on its way to citihood. As a city, its IRA is expected to jump to P900 million next year.

Morales promised to rehabilitate the public market, set up a “triple A” slaughterhouse, improve street lighting and sanitation, build more classrooms in the Mabalacat Community College, and spruce up the central business district.

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LOCAL POLITICS: But residents of Mabalacat, a “component” city like San Fernando, will continue to participate in the election of the governor.

In contrast, Angeles being an independent “chartered” city is not involved in electing the governor although it lies in the very heart of the province.

Mabalacat stays with the first district together with Magalang town and Angeles City. It was the district’s congressman, Rep. Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin, who sponsored RA 10164.

The law, by the way, ruled out any tax increase in the new city in the next five years.

A lingering legal question is whether Morales is now qualified for two more three-year terms since local executives are entitled to three consecutive terms. To split hair, this is the former town executive’s first term as city mayor.

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TRUE SONA: The national question of the day is “What is the true state of the nation”? Even with a surfeit of statistics, it is difficult finding a satisfactory answer.

The true state of the nation is not what the President tells a generally supportive Congress. It is what every Filipino feels in his guts and longs to tell the President.

How will the average Filipino digest the stony statistics and PowerPoint presentation of President Noynoy Aquino in his State of the Nation Address yesterday?

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LIFE ANY BETTER?: If a family’s life today is better than what it was when President Aquino took over in 2010, his SONA will ring as gospel truth to them.

But if their life has not improved or has even worsened, all those SONA glowing statistics cannot make them see the light.

As those of us who have grown cynical would say, the hungry cannot eat a SONA pie-chart, the aggrieved cannot feel empowered by PowerPoint tabulations.

Upgraded credit ratings sound good, but do not mean a thing to “pagpag”-eaters, to those who go hungry, to those who are afraid to seek medical treatment because it is expensive, to students whose problem is not academic but economic.

Prosecuting erring officials of the past administration is well and good, but has crowing about it abated corruption in high and low places in the current regime? Those who deal with the bureaucracy would know the answer to that.

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J.B.C. SCREENING: Among the first aspirants for Chief Justice to be interviewed today by the Judicial and Bar Council is Chair Andres Bautista of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

It is Bautista’s bad luck that he will be met by an opposition filed on behalf of the Philcomsat Group coupled with a related complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.

This embarrassing situation would have been avoided if Bautista accepted the legal fact that the Philcomsat companies are not sequestered and should have been cleansed of PCGG fingerprints on their plundered assets.

But he insisted on having a say on the now rehabilitated Philcomsat assets by working out his appointment to the board of the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. So it came to this.

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BACKGROUND: As early as July 21 last year, Postscript said on the subject:

“Having been banished from a company that was plundered, whose assets were dissipated and its business destroyed by its nominees, the Presidential Commission on Good Government reportedly now wants back in.

“Case in point is Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat), which is not sequestered, and its mother company Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC), which is also not sequestered and where the government is but a minority owner.

“Years after the government was deemed the owner of 35 percent of POTC shares, PCGG still clung onto Philcomsat and its once cash-rich subsidiary, the PSE-listed Philcomsat Holdings Corp. (PHC) which is also not sequestered.

“Records show that PCGG officials and nominees in the previous administration raided PHC’s coffers to the tune of P600 million, an amount certified as losses and write-offs by its external auditors.

“Then President Gloria Arroyo stepped in to transfer PCGG from Malacañang to the Department of Justice. Right after, PCGG turned over the government’s 35-percent block of shares to the Department of Finance and recalled its controllers from POTC and Philcomsat.”

The JBC may want to ask: What is in Philcomsat that PCGG insists on staying?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 24, 2012)

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