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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Perception of rising criminality ought to be checked

The perception is that criminality is on the rise. Recent news accounts spoke of Teresa Teano shot dead by carjackers who grabbed her Hyundai as she drove to the gym, and another girl, Sheryl Sarmiento, also killed inside her car on Commonwealth Ave., Q.C. Recently, a two-week old baby was kidnapped as her  mother got into a cab in front of a hospital in Manila. A plush neighborhood near St. Luke’s Hospital in Q.C., which boasts of some pricey  condominium buildings, has been burglarized a number of times, sending tenants scampering for house security.

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I talked about this perception of rising criminality with an eager young PNP official assigned in Central Luzon and he agreed that there is the perception especially in the media. But he said the statistics do not bear this out, stressing that one reason for the perception may be that more and more people have become braver and now talk openly about criminal events affecting them, in the media and even in the internet, unlike before when they would choose to hide information.  More people now realize, said this PNP officer, that they can get help from the police who are now working closely with  barangay officials in reporting and addressing criminality.

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Perhaps all this is true, but working against the P-Noy administration is this perception and as we all know, that’s the name of the game and it has tackle this bull by the horns. I suggested more PNP dialogue with the populace on their fears and apprehensions. And as I stressed to former Sen. Nene Pimentel when Cecile Alvarez and I interviewed him in our Sunday 8 pm. dzRH program about his  laudable newly-launched “Center for Local Governance,” which aims to strengthen the LGUs, especially at its lowest link, the barangay level:  let’s get the barangay people to truly deserve their salaries, instead of just earning their keep from politicians who hire them during campaign season.  

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Many folks are unable to believe the recent generous claim of US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. that his government would come to the succor of the Philippines in an outbreak of hostilities with China over the Spratlys, despite the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in Washington, D.C. between our two countries on Aug. 30, 1951.  This is because the US economy is over-stretched at this point in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to a certain degree still in Iraq, in its “support” role for NATO action in aid of the Libyan rebels and in various other flash-points around the globe, that the US would studiously avoid further direct involvements.
In fact, as of May 6 this year the US’ Total Public Debt Outstanding was $14.32 trillion, representing 96.3 percent of its GDP and ranking it 12th highest against other nations.  So tight are its budgetary constraints that they nearly brought the entire US government to an administrative halt months back, triggering intense debates in the US Congress.

I’m sure that all America wants to do now is to encourage the various countries in dispute over the South China Sea islands to cool down and talk things over, with, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said weeks back, the US providing a cordial forum for dialogue.  China’s assurance of a similar desire is reassuring to everyone.

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Every time I hear of former Speaker Jose de Venecia journeying abroad on the invitation of a foreign government or international organization, I cannot help but think that this man’s persuasive talents and immense political and cultural contacts around the globe ought to be utilized by the P-Noy government to help mediate our problems abroad, such as our running issues with China in the last year; but unfortunately it’s not doing so (DFA sources intimated to me that Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario had endorsed De Venecia's appointment as presidential adviser on UN and regional concerns, but up to now it has received no action from P-Noy).

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Last April, for instance, JDV led a delegation of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), a group of more than 100 administration and opposition political parties from around the world which he chairs, in a call on  Vietnamese Party General Secretary and National Assembly Chair Nguyen Phy Trong in Hanoi. Trong assured the delegates that the Communist Party of Vietnam would continue to cooperate closely with groups like ICAPP in helping maintain peace, stability and development in the region and the world.

Earlier this month JDV was invited by the United Nations University in Barcelona to participate, not as a politician but as a global thinker. He sat as panelist in the “Scoping Conference” of UNU's new “International Institute for the Alliance of Civilizations” and as the initiator of the “inter-faith dialogue” at the UN a few years back, JDV was like fish thrown into water at that round-table confab, with "The Future of Inter-cultural Dialogue" as its theme. JDV submitted six proposals on such topics as, how to handle the “clash of civilizations” and transform it instead into an “alliance;” how to mitigate the negative impact of cultural globalization on poor countries; the need for crafting a new economic ideology for the developing countries,  a global ethic for international politics and economics and global restraints for global media (“on what they may or may not show”).    


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In these crisis times, every Filipino has to come aboard to help steer the nation through tricky political and economic shoals, and this goes true be it for seasoned intellectual leaders like JDV or young but tested ones like Gilbert Teodoro. Talking of Gibo, who recently celebrated his 49th birthday, I saw the various greetings on the internet sent by his legions of followers who refuse to disband until now. Their uniform message was, run Gibo, run for the Senate in 2013, but still, nothing is heard from the other end of the line.



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Reports say the senators’ pork barrel will increase by another P30 million each, so each of them will get P230 million in total every year.  The problem is that this is setting a bad example. For instance, do you know that each Quezon City councilor gets P41 million in pork barrel funds annually, which goes to salaries and other operating expenses of his or her office?  But how in God’s name can the councilors employ that many people in so many sq. m. of office space in City Hall, to each merit P41 million a year? With the senators getting additional millions, can councilors and---don’t forget, the House members, who only get P70 million pork barrel plus P10-15 million MVUC each annually---be far behind, at least in agitating to get more? 

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In another instance, Secretary Dinky Soliman has asked for P2 billion more, in addition to the earlier unprecedented P21 billion sliced from the 2011 budget, to support the DSWD’s conditional-cash transfer (CCT) program.  Soliman claims that the DSWD has finished its expanded registration of the poorest of the poor families, the bulk of which is concentrated in Mindanao where the poverty is at its worst. As a result, she says, the P21 billion has been consumed.
 But so far, all these newly registered “beneficiaries” are mere claims on Soliman’s part and the valid query on many minds is, could the DSWD have finished registration of the additional 1.3 million family beneficiaries since it started this January?

The DSWD under former Secretary Esperanza Cabral had  listed one million family-beneficiaries with its P10 billion budget in the past administration, so that Soliman's claim now brings the total beneficiaries covered by the CCT to 2.3 million. There is a lot of skepticism, however, about whether the current P21 billion budget is being  utilized properly and whether many of those fast-registered beneficiaries are real people and not fictitious; or  whether they are not merely politicians' followers, especially since the LP seems so  obsessed with party-building and gaining lost political ground. Besides, when it comes to handling funds, Dinky is not the most credible official, as the memory of the CODE-NGO program is still fresh in many minds.  


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I called up former Secretary Cabral, who, in her term, had solid credibility, and she said that indeed, such rapid enlistments are possible if more workers are hired and trained for that purpose, since the “National Household Targetting System for Poverty Reduction” was already in place even in her term at DSWD and the latter's “organic” structure is there to oversee the CCT program. In fact, Dr. Cabral would encourage putting more money into it, “even P50 billion.” But that’s depriving other agencies of equally urgent funding, wouldn't it, I queried; besides, how do you ensure that these gargantuan funds would not end up in politicos’ pockets for “synchronized” elections?  To which she replied, “just ensure that the proper safeguards are there.” 


 As Shakespeare would put it, AYE, THERE’S THE RUB. Are 'proper safeguards' in place?


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