POSTSCRIPT / June 9, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Opinion poll on BBL best guide for solons

WITH only 20 percent of adult Filipinos nationwide favoring the creation of an autonomous Moro nation in Muslim Mindanao, it seems foolhardy for President Noynoy Aquino to insist on delivering a new Bangsamoro to his favorite band of rebels.

Many senators who know how to read opinion surveys  – that only one out of every five Filipinos is for passing the basic law or charter for a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) – now stand against the BAR bill that is being rushed before the Congress goes on recess on Thursday,

Opposing the BAR makes political sense for many senators and those eyeing a national office, because that stand would mean safely swimming with the current of public opinion.

Many of them, including Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the lead committee on local government processing the measure, call for its careful and critical review because they have found substantive, even constitutional, flaws in the draft.

The seeming slow progress of Senate deliberations may appear to BAR proponents as foot-dragging or an attempt to derail the railroad run to catch the valedictory State of the Nation Address of the President on July 27.

The hurried holding of committee hearings at this late hour can be traced to the failure of Malacañang itself to conduct prior consultations with affected sectors before promising the Bangsamoro to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an abject act of appeasement.

There could have been less objections and rushing about now had the President bothered to ask for policy directions from the Congress and held consultations with stakeholders BEFORE sending his varsity team to talk to the rebels itching to grab as much as they could.

• Solons should ignore foreign meddling

THE SAME survey figures could prompt opposition candidates for president and vice president, upon their cutting clean after filing their certificates of candidacy in October, to stand against rushing the approval of the BAR basic law.

The negative public opinion on the creation of the Bangsamoro may be balanced by the generally approving view of other countries whose involvement had been tolerated by Malacañang — out of ignorance of its implications or as a result of accommodation or even pressure.

While many congressmen are seen as malleable, most senators are thought of as capable of standing up against foreign pressure, although there could be a few of them who may be vulnerable because of some documented dark secrets.

The involvement of other countries and foreign organizations in managing what is basically a domestic issue has internationalized the Bangsamoro question.

Foreign fingers are stuck into every aspect of the affair, from the so-called peace (actually appeasement) talks between Malacañang (not the government) and the MILF, to monitoring the ceasefire, the laying aside of MILF weapons, and the plebiscite to ratify inclusion in the Bangsamoro area.

Our view is that President Aquino had been misled into allowing foreign meddling. If he wakes up now to the complications it has brought into the Bangsamoro deal, it is too late.

It is also too late within the limited time left to clean the Bangsamoro bill of its objectionable features, including its disturbing inward and exclusive Moro view and its most favored treatment of the MILF.

There are more urgent matters to attend to than a half-baked Bangsamoro. Before the distracting election campaign season sets in, we think the best move is for the lame duck president to just leave the matter to the tender mercies of both chambers of the Congress.

Continuing to pressure or cajole a separate and independent branch is messy. Anyway, there is always the next administration to pick it up again – with more time and options in its hands and wizened by the errors of the current dispensation.

• PCSO vows faster aid to indigents

THE PHILIPPINE Charity Sweepstakes Office is sometimes running low on funds for fulfilling its mandate to provide financial assistance to indigent Filipinos, according to its new chairman Ireneo Maliksi.

The PCSO does not only provide financial help to individual recipients, Maliksi said, but also has to give compulsory contributions to various government agencies from funds raised from sweepstakes, horse races, lotteries and other fund-raising systems.

To streamline its giving of charity assistance for the medical and healthcare needs of poor patients, Maliksi has reduced the waiting time for beneficiaries availing themselves of charity funds.

The former Cavite governor and congressman noted after evaluating procedures that it used to take as long as two to four months from the time applicants for assistance file their papers until they get the PCSO guaranty letter for their medical and other hospital expenses. There have been instances when patients died while waiting for help.

Noting the fluctuations of PCSO earnings, he likened its guaranty letter given to hospitals to post-dated checks that must be backed by sufficient funds.

To speed up processing, Maliksi staffed up the agency’s charity assistance department with more social workers and professionals attending to the growing number of patient-applicants lining up daily at the PCSO head office, its extension office at the Lung Center in Quezon City and its various offices nationwide. At the Lung Center alone, PCSO personnel attend to up to 800 patients a day.

He gave assurance that in giving assistance to indigents, the PCSO will be color blind, that it will continue providing charity assistance to beneficiaries regardless of political affiliation.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 9, 2015)

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