POSTSCRIPT /April 8, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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The law, not GMA or SC, farmed out Luisita

LOLA TO ESCAPE?: A sickly former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who could just die after an ill-timed hiccup, rushing out to escape in a wheelchair to evade a wobbly charge of plunder?

It is hard to imagine that absurd scenario coming to pass amidst the administration’s fear that this frail lola of 67 might fly the coop if granted bail or allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.

Still, the cruelty to the ailing former President continues. It has gone too far.

It is sad that President Noynoy Aquino, guardian of Hacienda Luisita whose being farmed out to its workers gained traction during the Arroyo administration, seems to enjoy seeing a fellow human being subjected to state-sponsored cruelty.

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WITNESS WITHDRAWS: A basic point here is that under the law, the accused, now a duly elected congresswoman of Pampanga, is still presumed innocent despite the unrelenting demolition job on her by the administration.

She was first arrested in 2011 and detained for alleged poll fraud in the 2010 elections. The accusation was that she ordered party mates to cheat in order to ensure a 12-0 victory in the senatorial election that year.

The lone witness who claimed to have overheard her giving instructions to deliver a 12-0 sweep later admitted he was not really sure. Besides it is normal and not illegal for party leaders to exhort followers to whack the opposition with a zero score.

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RESTRICTIONS: When it became clear that the election fraud charge would not stick, the administration rushed to package another non-bailable charge, this time for allegedly plundering sweepstakes funds, just so the torture of detention could be continued.

So now Ms Arroyo remains detained at the government’s Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, and denied the opportunity to be treated by medical specialists of her choice or seek treatment abroad.

The performance of her legislative duties as representative of the second district of Pampanga is being hampered to the detriment of her constituents. She is denied the normal visits, and the curative effects of being in the company of kith and kin.

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MINISTERIAL ‘OK’: Charged with her for alleged plunder of P366-million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office are former PCSO officials who supposedly conspired with her.

But while three of them — former PCSO directors Manuel Morato, Rey Roquero and Jose Taruc — have been granted bail, Ms Arroyo is denied the same right even when there is reasonable doubt that she is the most guilty.

Her participation in the alleged plunder consisted of her writing “OK” on the margin of an office memo for the release of intelligence funds. Such initialing is ministerial since it is required by law for the release of the needed funds.

Does her “OK” mean she ordered, approved of or benefitted from, any misuse of the funds down the administrative line? If not, why not charge her with a lesser charge that is bailable?

But jaundiced eyes see wrongdoing where and when they want to see it.

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DYING IN DETENTION: President Aquino must be reminded that actually it was not his predecessor who took away Hacienda Luisita from their clan. Neither was it the Supreme Court under then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

It was the agrarian reform LAW that distributed big plantations, including Luisita in Tarlac, to their tenants or workers. The machinery of government merely moved to make sure the law was carried out.

On being humane, President Aquino surely remembers that his father, then opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, was already convicted and sentenced to die when allowed by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to go to the United States for treatment of his life-threatening heart condition.

In contrast, Ms Arroyo is still presumed innocent — but she is forbidden to go to a doctor of her choice or to seek treatment abroad because she is supposedly a flight risk.

Do we have to see her die in detention to realize the value of Christian charity and fairness?

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MYANMAR WATER: Over the last three years since its democratization, Myanmar, formerly Burma, has undergone economic transformation to remove barriers to development and encourage inflow of foreign investments to keep pace with the growth in the region.

Philippine companies have started to look into the emerging investment frontier particularly with the passing of Myanmar’s Foreign Investment Law allowing 100-percent foreign-owned companies to enter their market across different sectors.

Manila Water, the private concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province, has joined the bandwagon with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Yangon City Development Committee to reduce leakage in the city’s water system.

Myanmar’s water system, like Vietnam and East Manila in 1997, is beset with leaking pipes and illegal connections, making it difficult for potable water to reach its customers.

The success story of Manila Water in turning around the ailing waterworks system in the Philippine capital and environs has been replicated in the service areas of its subsidiaries in Boracay, Laguna and Clark.

It has also shown its operational excellence in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam where it now is the biggest direct foreign investor in the water sector.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 8, 2014)

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