Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Sleeping Watchdog

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has been receiving flak for the past couple of years or so. I would have to say the flak is not undeserved.
The Ombudsman Act is clear on the Ombudsman's mandate:
Section 13. Mandate. - The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against officers or employees of the government, or of any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the Government to the people.
As such, the office is given a wide latitude on how to prosecute a case. The Supreme Court even held that the Ombudsman can act based solely on an anonymous letter (as opposed to a criminal action against a private person, in which witnesses' affidavits are needed in order for a complaint to prosper).
If the Ombudsman can investigate a person based merely on an anonymous tip, more so can it act on a full report given by an international organization, right?
Among Gutierrez's shortcomings is its lack of action on the World Bank report about the rigging of WB-funded road projects. It gets even more damning as the report was already given to the office of the Ombudsman as early as May 2006, as Malaya has reported. If that is the case, what was done about it? A report served on a silver platter, and all the Ombudsman had to do was follow the trail. But nothing is apparently done about it. Nada, Zilch. Zip. Ditto for the other seemingly obvious graft cases i.e. ZTE-NBN deal and the Fertilizer Fund.
As the saying goes: ang pinakammahirap gisinging ay ang nagtutulog-tulugan.
Photo: tomsaint11, Flicr, Creative Commons

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Abolishing the VFA

I believe that Visiting Forces Agreement causes more headaches than benefits, as the Subic Rape Case has shown. Sure, our military may have learned a thing or two from their American counterparts, but this has not produced tangible results in almost ten years that the VFA is in existence - the Mindanao situation is as bad as ever.
It's high time that the VFA is abolished. 
Senator Francis Pangilinan's resolution calling for the abolition of the agreement is welcome news. But as to whether this call will gather enough steam is still in doubt. There are still holdovers from the '99 Senate vote (Enrile, Santiago, Biazon and Honasan ratified; while Pimentel and Legarda rejeced the ratification). But more importantly, GMA is more likely to be loathe to abolish the VFA. GMA, as any president we have ever had, irrationally relies on uncle Sam as an emotional crutch. And where GMA goes, so goes her lackeys in the Senate.
So will the VFA be abolished? I'll believe it when I see it.
Photo: visualcuriosity, Flickr, Creative Commons

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fiddling While Rome Burns

In a time when everything seems to be in the verge of collapse, is now the proper time for new ChaCha talks?
I don't think so. House Speaker Prospero Nograles believes otherwise.
But if we are to believe Nograles, we shouldn't worry about term extensions. That is not part of the agenda, he says.
And as far as Juan Ponce Enrile is concerned, only the economic provisions of the Contitution should be changed.
I agree with JPE on this, but I still believe that now is not the time for a Constitutional revision - economic or otherwise.
Look, companies right now are not looking to invest. In fact, they are pulling out. Even if we open up our economy to foreign investors, I very much doubt if there will be takers of the opportunity to invest in an open Philippines. There are much more viable options as of the moment, China being the most feasible one.
So no. Now is not the time for Constitutional change talks. If Congress is really intent on keeping the economy afloat, it should implement statutes which should encourage growth from within, not without. 
Nograles should focus his energy on finding practical ways to pump-prime the economy right now. Talks of ChaCha or Con-Ass these days, especially if it is just used as a means for a term extension, is almost vulgar.  It's like fiddling while Rome burns. It's dancing Cha Cha while the Philippines is crumbling..

Photo: Diego Cosenza, Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid

I've been out of the loop these past few weeks. I am ever aware of the news hogging the headlines, but I feel I have nothing substantial to add. The major issue in my mind is, of course, the raging worldwide economic crisis. We are very much vulnerable to this, as can be seen by the recent spate of lay-offs and plant/factory closures. I thought a few months ago that we can roll with the waves. But that doesn't seem so at the moment.
The contractor mess and the recently resurfaced (but ever-present) drug problem are matters of national concern, but they seem to be trivial compared to the looming economic doom. Can we afford a recession right now? Can we afford more job cuts amid the rising consumer prices?
What will happen to Ramdam ang Kaunlaran?

Photo: woodley wonderworks, Flickr, Creative Commons
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