POSTSCRIPT / June 26, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Lying, credit grabbing on CoA audit of PDAF

BIG LIE: The public must be told the truth that it was NOT the Aquino administration and the Tan leadership at the Commission on Audit that uncovered the massive raiding of pork barrel funds leading to the prosecution of serial thieves in high places.

The clarification is imperative, because President Noynoy Aquino claims he is succeeding in his anti-corruption campaign through the unearthing of the pork scam and prosecution of those who had plundered billions in public funds.

Mr. Aquino has boasted: “Wasn’t it the leadership I appointed at the Commission on Audit who went through the documents with a fine-tooth comb that unearthed the abuses over PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund)?”

Calling this one of Malacanang’s “biggest lies”, colleague Bobi Tiglao of The Manila Times identified the CoA officials in the previous administration who actually worked on the PDAF research now being used to prosecute Aquino’s political enemies.

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UNDESERVED CREDIT: Tiglao wrote: “The CoA special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Funds was ordered under CoA Office Order No. 2010-309 dated May 13, 2010.

“The agency at that time was chaired by Reynaldo Villar, whom past president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed, but whom Aquino kicked out and even accused of involvement in the plunder case involving PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) funds.

“The audit was undertaken by a team headed by a career official, Susan P. Garcia, under the CoA’s Special Audits Office, who signed and submitted the report to the Budget Secretary.

“The CoA chairman appointed by Aquino, Grace Pulido-Tan or even his favorite commissioner Heidi Mendoza, had nothing to do with the report.” (FDP: And Tan now appears headed for appointment as a Supreme Court justice as some kind of reward?)

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SELECTIVE REPORT: Tiglao said: “Tan didn’t even sign her approval of the report. It was only after the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a series of exposés on the pork barrel scam that Tan publicly released the CoA report, and even provided the theatrics for it, as in her ‘kahindik-hindik’ remark on the scam.

“If Aquino’s administration had any role in the audit, it was to impede it, with the report complaining: ‘The DBM (Department of Budget and Management) could not provide the Team, despite repeated requests, with the complete schedule of releases per legislator from PDAF for soft projects and VILP for hard projects.’

“The DBM submitted documents involving only senators who were not in Aquino’s camp, mainly Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the last three of whom were not coincidentally tipped to run for vice president or even president in 2016.”

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EDSA BEDLAM: After four years of trying, the Metro Manila Development Authority has failed to provide relief to commuters and motorists on Epifanio de los Santos Ave., the metropolis’ main circumferential road used by an estimated 326,500 vehicles daily.

The optimum number of buses that should ply its outer lanes reserved for utility vehicles is 1,600 buses daily, but around 3,500 local passenger buses actually scramble for road space on the 24-kilometer artery arching across seven cities.

Capacity and safety are not the only problems plaguing EDSA. Traffic congestion has been blamed for a daily permanent loss estimated at P2.4 billion, including wasted man-hours, eliciting criticisms and suggestions from affected sectors.

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MULTI-DECKERS: Just yesterday we were talking to Rep. Enrique “Tet” Garcia of the 2nd district of Bataan, and our conversation turned to EDSA’s monstrous traffic. The problem-solver from Balanga suggested multi-decker buses to multiply carrying capacity.

It is simple multiplication, he said, pointing out that if double-deckers were fielded, immediately the number of passengers that can be ferried is doubled using the same road space. Three-deck buses can carry tree times more, he said.

Multi-deckers move slower, he conceded, but this time problem can be solved by commuters adjusting their schedules. The center of gravity of taller vehicles is higher, which may invite toppling, but this can be offset by slower and more disciplined driving.

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MRT OVERLOADING: With the multiplication of the carrying capacity of buses, Garcia said, the pressure on the overloaded Metro Rail Transit running in the middle of EDSA will be eased. The MRT is designed to carry 300,000 passengers daily, but is now packed with 600,000.

The overloading, compounded by poor maintenance and aging of coaches, rails, and the signal system, has impaired the efficiency and safety of the MRT, whipping up a debate on what should be done.

Garcia said the proper government agency may want to consider his suggestion for multi-decker buses to help solve the EDSA congestion and the safety and efficiency issues confronting the MRT.

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ARTICULATED BUSES: There was an earlier suggestion to field articulated buses. These are elongated buses consisting of two vehicles connected through a pivoting link to enable the contraption to snake its way through traffic.

My opinion is that while articulated buses are fine in a less crowded and disciplined European setting, they may not work in EDSA’s bedlam. The long buses will occupy twice as much horizontal space — and possibly even more because allowance must be made for swerving.

Multi-deckers, on the other hand, multiply capacity vertically. They have to contend with a few low pedestrian overpasses, but the foot bridges can be reconstructed to provide headroom for the extra-tall buses.

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MMDA HAZARDS: Still on the subject of EDSA, where I pass at least twice a day at an average crawl of 15 kilometers per hour (as calculated by my car’s computer), the MMDA itself contributes to accidents by insisting on its dazzling electronic billboards across the road.

Its e-billboards should not use lengthy paragraphs that distract drivers attempting to read them. Only useful information should be displayed. For instance, why advice drivers of high and low tides schedules? If MMDA wants, I can cut the messages to the bone free of charge.

To minimize distraction, the MMDA should also stop bombarding drivers with commercial ads. Even displays of big flags flashed in dazzling colors should stop.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 26, 2014)

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