POSTSCRIPT / June 19, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Forbid mayors’ giving material aid to judges

CORRUPTION: Mayors, governors and other local executives should be prohibited from giving allowances as well as material assistance and favors to judges and prosecutors assigned in their areas.

The practice makes prosecutors and judges partial to their benefactors, who may be tempted to use such doles and favors to influence decisions. Some mayors have become so confident that they invite, visit or talk to judges about cases.

If assistance is to be given, it should never be in cash. For instance, if a judge needs a new air-conditioner or a service vehicle, the item itself — not the money equivalent — should be turned over to the beneficiary through proper audited procedures.

As a rule, allowances and office requirements of court personnel should not cross over from executive department.

This may seem a small matter, but there are reports of how some local officials have used public funds and doles to influence or to buy goodwill from prosecutors and judges in their areas.

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NAGA SPEECH: The Araw ng Kalayaan speech of President Noynoy Aquino in Naga City may have grated some touchy individuals, but as one who knows what his family went through in the dark night of Marcosian martial rule, I can relate to much of what he said.

With just two years before his term ends, he shared (in Pilipino) his sweeping view of the national situation from the vantage of the presidency: “Everyone of us has something to share so that the sacrifices of our ancestors will not go to waste.”

Against a long view of history, the President fast-forwarded to the 2016 national elections: “The challenge to us is to choose candidates who can fight for the interest of every citizen.

“We do not need someone who is good at reading scripts, dancing or singing. It is our responsibility to ensure that the Philippines is more just and progressive than it was in the past.”

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DIFFERENT TALENT: That part about “reading scripts, dancing or singing” drew the most critical comments from the usual sections in the gallery. To preserve its flavor, let us repeat the statement in its original Pilipino:

“Hindi natin kailangan ng magaling bumigkas ng script, mahusay sumayaw, o kaya magaling kumanta. Pananagutan nating mag-iwan ng mas makatarungan at mas maunlad na Pilipinas kaysa ating dinatnan.”

We have seen just too many clowns and performers who had sung and danced their way to public office – much to the electorate’s belated regret. So what is wrong with being reminded of that anomaly?

And so what if he said that while Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the putative Liberal Party presidential candidate in 2016, sat behind him?

There had been times also when Vice President Jojo Binay (a close friend of the Aquinos who is expected to be the opposition standard bearer) stood by the President’s side at some public event.

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KRIS, TOO?: The President’s broadside against entertainers in general who run for public office was taken by some as a tirade against senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, both actors and defendants in the pork barrel plunder cases filed by the Ombudsman.

If it was, although it is not clearly so, it could be uncalled for. But why stop with Estrada and Revilla? The President’s remarks could just as well refer also to his sister Kris, a top actress and show host who might decide one morning to run for a major public office.

The President’s remarks should be taken as a general counsel, based on sad experience, against mistaking entertainment talent for competence in managing a public office.

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ADVERSARIAL ROLE: Almost by definition, the media play an adversarial role vis-à-vis the government. The President and his media advisers should understand that basic point.

Having been largely modelled after the libertarian American press, the local mass media seem almost programmed to criticize whatever the government does or does not do and whoever is in office.

For a public official to be hypersensitive to criticism is a sure path to a public relations disaster.

The media’s adversarial and critical attitude is more pronounced in the national capital enjoying a ringside view of government with all its warts and flabs, as well as in the urban centers where mass media’s voice booms with seeming authority.

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DISPROPORTION: Is it not possible, we sometimes ask, that there is comparatively more dissatisfaction with government in the urban centers because of the residents’ incessant exposure to the mostly critical media?

We also wonder aloud in forums if President Aquino seems to be unpopular only in the areas dominated by the overly critical media but is still vastly popular in the countryside? We want to see a credible study on this.

Granting this disproportion in popularity depends on exposure to media, will the net popularity and support last till President Aquino bows out in 2016?

Another question: Assuming the President’s net popularity holds out, is it enough to clinch victory for whoever he endorses as his successor?

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JUSTICE TO ALL: Ninoy Aquino’s bloodied figure on the tarmac came to mind when his son, speaking in Naga, recalled how his family’s ordeal under the Marcos dictatorship taught him the importance of never ceasing to fight for equality to end injustice.

Ninoy’s son said: “Now that I am in the position to apply these lessons in real life, I will do all that I can to give justice not only to some but to the whole nation.”

“Ngayon nga pong nasa posisyon na ako para maisabuhay ang mga aral na ito, gagawin ko ang lahat ng aking makakaya upang mabigyan ng hustisya hindi lamang ang iilan, kundi ang buong sambayanan.”

Will the nation grant him good faith, and trust him, through his last two years in office?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 19, 2014)

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