POSTSCRIPT / November 17, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Go juggles his time for Duterte, Senate

WE understand the attachment of Sen. Bong Go to President Duterte, to whom he has been a loyal aide for at least 20 years, but we think it is high time he developed his own political persona as a member of the Congress.

This is dictated not only by the constitutional concept of separation of powers, but more so by the limitations of time and space — meaning he cannot be in two distant places playing two different roles at the same time.

Go has a management degree from La Salle, but considering his being a neophyte lawmaker, he may have to devote more time to his demanding job as senator and less to his acting as presidential all-around aide.

How can Go manage to be always by the President’s side – like when they flew to Davao City for the President’s several days of rest some 980 air-kilometers away — while he also has to attend to his duties in the Senate?

Even the magic of teleconferencing will not be able to effect his simultaneous presence in Davao and Manila. In the traffic-choked national capital itself, rushing from one site to another is a test of patience and endurance.

Staff work and advisers’ guidance help ease the pressure, but a member of the Senate must possess his own stock knowledge and wisdom, as a number of so-so senators must have discovered by now.

We were prompted to point out the need for Go to dedicate himself to just one branch of government, and to make good at it, after seeing him being coached while responding to interpellation on the Senate floor this week.

As chair of the health and sports committee, Go was hard pressed to give updates on the preparations for the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian Games that the Philippines is hosting Nov. 30-Dec. 11 (just 13 days from now!).

Go should have been shooting the answers from the top of his head, but the sight of several people huddled around coaching him during the interpellation gave the impression that he had not had the time to do his homework.

Among those around him was President Vince Dizon of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority that is building the P5-billion sports complex at Clark New City, one of the SEAG sites aside from Metro Manila and Subic.

Go was being interpellated by Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who seems to enjoy sparring with younger colleagues who take the floor without much preparation. (When Sen. Manny Pacquiao sought the creation of a new commission for boxing, Drilon danced around him jabbing the champ with simple questions. That was fun to watch.)

Among the questions thrown at Go was: After the Games, what will happen to the structures and facilities that will be built at great cost to taxpayers?

Drilon cited the Olympic stadiums at Rio de Janeiro and Athens that have become, he said, “Monuments of Non-use.” (On a smaller scale, right at Clark, the Centennial Expo Filipino built in 1998 by then President Ramos became a “White Elephant.”)

“What will we do with these facilities after the SEAG?,” Drilon asked. “These are assets which are in our books without any income. So is there a plan on what to do with these after?”

With no ready responses, Go moved that the BCDA’s P15.5-billion budget for 2020, already approved, be recalled so questions related to the Clark sports complex can be answered by Sen. Sonny Angara, its sponsor.

 Raising self-help fund for Seniors

HERE’S a novel idea for the estimated nine million Senior Citizens in the country to generate for themselves a Senior Citizens Common Fund (SCCF) that will make them less dependent on government doles. How it works:

1. An app or software application could be designed similar to what banks use in Automatic Teller Machines. Every time a depositor withdraws from an ATM, a question appears: “Do you want to donate to the Senior Citizens Common Fund (SCCF)?”. If the depositor answers “Yes,” he is prompted to key in the amount of donation.

2. Some establishments, such as fast food chains, may put up a similar system wherein every time a Senior Citizen purchases something, he would be asked if he wants to donate a portion of his SC discount to the SCCF. If he answers “Yes,” he would be asked how much and the amount will be deposited by the teller or cashier to the SCCF using the SCCF app.

Senior Citizens Rights advocate Romulo B. Macalintal, who suggested the SCCF, says that if an establishment agrees to spearhead this project, a mini-convention can be called of all presidents or heads of Senior Citizens groups in Metro Manila accredited by the DILG and/or Department of Social Welfare and Development.

During the convention, attendees will be informed of the SCCF project and asked to cooperate. If it succeeds in Metro Manila, Macalintal says, a convention can be called of all heads or presidents of SC groups in the country.

Establishments joining the SCCF project can design their own logo or stickers saying something like “This (Place) is Senior Citizens Friendly”, or words of similar import, to be displayed in their premises.

With about nine million Senior Citizens in the country, Macalintal says, if every day an average of fifty centavos is donated by, say, one million SCs, some P500,000 a day or P15 million a month or P180 million a year will be raised. Some SCs can donate more than 50 centavos.

Macalintal says the SCCF can be used for putting up facilities that will extend to Senior Citizens free medical and housing services from the donations of their fellow SCs. Some business moguls can put in their own matching donations.

To insure that the common fund will be properly managed, the SCCF setup could be headed by persons of known probity and integrity.

The idea needs refinement. Interested parties, including IT experts, who want to help may email us.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 17, 2019)

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