POSTSCRIPT / January 4, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Let’s do it right this time, Mr. President.

Dear Mr. President,

Kumusta na po kayo. Our nation has just entered a New Year brimming with hope. We better do it right this time, Mr. President, to meet the people’s expectations.

Time is running out for us to mend things – just 18 months are left, to be exact.

We used to tell the people during the campaign that “kung walang corrupt walang mahirap”. (Without corruption, there will be no poverty.) They have not forgotten that catchy line.

In fact, half of the population have answered back, after four years, that they are still mired in poverty. They seem to be calling our attention to the fact that the corruption-poverty twins are still much around despite your efforts to eradicate them.

Investigating and filing charges with attendant harsh publicity against corrupt officials may have scared some of the crooks in government. But skepticism persists, because most of those being prosecuted are your political enemies.

None of the more notorious allies of the administration has been subjected to your trademark practice of humiliating and dragging suspects around for public stoning.

Mr. President, your “Shame ‘em” anti-corruption campaign may have scared also your own Cabinet members, some of whom now hesitate to sign big ticket contracts and pursue major projects for fear of suffering the same cruel demolition later.

The braking effect on the economy of the underspending that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) had sought to correct, albeit illegally, are now becoming evident in the Gross Domestic Product falling below target and job generation being anemic.

Mr. President, you still have a reservoir of goodwill to draw from — if you just make a New Year resolve to snatch your administration from its lackluster performance.

As you prepare to exit in June 2016 with solid achievements, you might want to consider taking these steps:

• Give more thought and heart to balancing the anti-corruption campaign with fairness and the humane treatment of respondents still presumed to be innocent. Your cleanup drive must not be tainted with perceptions of cruelty and vindictiveness.

• Go with the same ferocity after crooks in your administration. Consider suspending or filing charges against key officials whose honesty in handling public funds has been put in serious question. Do not be selective in publishing audit reports.

• Take quick preventive and punitive action against Cabinet officials who misled the President into adopting budget programs that have proved to be unconstitutional. Do not be afraid to sack them, because the people will be behind you.

• Accelerate the programmed release of development funds not because it is good for administration candidates in 2016 but because it will stimulate the economy, create jobs, and improve the quality of life of Filipinos while putting more money in their hands.

• With the end of your term fast approaching, instead of feeding factionalism and partisan conflict, take advantage of this season of goodwill to bring people and parties together. Above all, be a non-partisan President serving the interest only of the people, especially the poor, and not any political party..

Mr. President, the New Year is the most auspicious time to start binding the nation’s wounds — so we all can move forward together faster.

* * *

AIRPORT AUTHORITIES: At the Clark Freeport last Friday, meanwhile, Rep. Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, (1st Dist., Pampanga) brought the glad tidings that prospects were bright for the early passage of bills granting separate charters for the international airports in Clark, Aklan and Davao.

However, Guiao could not say with confidence that President Aquino would sign the legislations once enacted. We understand his not being sure as we have noted ourselves the absence of enthusiasm of the Chief Executive for the Clark International Airport.

The House committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento is finalizing the bills for submission to the House plenary in the first quarter, Guiao told newsmen in a forum at the Bale-Balita (House of News) hosted by the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) in partnership with the Clark Development Corp. and the Social Security System.

In the Senate, Sen. Bam Aquino has committed to push the measures patterned after the charters governing the operation as authorities of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila and the Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu.

* * *

COLISEUM TRANSFER: The measures would allow the three airports to gain independence from the Executive department in charting their fiscal (financial) and operational policies, like the NAIA and MIA, except in sourcing funds for capital investments.

In the CAMI forum, Guiao also disclosed:

• The House committee on sports and government and private sector stakeholders have reached a consensus to move the Rizal Memorial Coliseum from Manila to a 50-hectare site in Clark being offered by the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

• Guiao intends to file soon a bill creating a Clark Urban Development Authority to prepare advance policies and programs, including “right-of-way banking,” to ensure the integrated development of a Clark metropolis free of the problems plaguing other urbanized areas.

At present, Clark and the other airports in Aklan and Davao have to abide by the policies enunciated and programs approved by the Executive department through the Department of Transportation and Communications.

As a result, a proposal to integrate Clark’s operations with NAIA under a “one airport, two systems” program has been derailed by pressures from certain business interests that favor the retention of the Metro Manila-based NAIA as the premier gateway in Luzon.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 4, 2015)

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