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The MRT in PeNoy’s Wonderland DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 08/02/2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

The MRT in PeNoy’s Wonderland

Herman Tiu Laurel
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” — Alice, Alice in Wonderland.

When I hear PeNoy and his spokes-platoon I am pulled into the vortex of Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world. PeNoy’s Sona speech was a walk through a “House of Mirrors” twisting images of the real world. On electricity rates gouging, he reported it as stemming from National Power Corp. (Napocor), we showed incontrovertibly that it’s the devious privatization program, the Epira which privatized Napocor’s profit centers and its profits to private corporations, while it nationalized and socialized Napocor’s costs and debts. He also discussed the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and its financial and fare subsidy problem, in another Alice in Wonderland storytelling:

PeNoy’s Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) secretary and Lopez gofer, Jose “Ping” de Jesus, has been jawing about how much MRT commuters are being subsidized by government. It’s made to appear that the commuters must feel guilty about this subsidy and expect the pain of an MRT fare hike. De Jesus says the subsidy is P40 per commuter, which means there could be up to P40 additional to today’s fares — or a 200 percent increase! I feel they are just raising the ante to P40 so when the real increase comes of 25 percent or 50 percent, the commuters will sigh in relief and welcome it. But the truth is, many commuters just won’t be able to afford any increase at all — which can mean students not being able to go to school, more workers downtime, less load on the MRT which will mean bigger losses for government again.

How did the MRT go so badly? The so-called investors in the MRT projects, the oligarchs, supposedly raised equities and loans of around $660-million for a total of P22-billion — but all these were taken out on the back of the “sovereign guarantee” of the Philippine government, i.e. the Filipino people and taxpayers; government also provided a 15 percent guaranteed profit to the investors. The investors also got: 1) a quantum increase in real estate values of these so-called investors, 2) the humongous increase in “captive” sales to these investors in their malls and commercial centers where the MRT stations are diverted to (remember the controversy with the Ayalas, which forced the MRT station on its intersection though this is a most inappropriate area), 3) they also got all the advertising values, and 4) the “right-of-way” on Edsa for nothing!

The financial hemorrhage of the MRT started from the drafting of the contract between the so called investors, Metro Rail Transit Corp., and the Philippine government. It was concluded under the notorious BOT-manic President Fidel Ramos. The terms were onerous, one-sided and adverse to the public interest from the very beginning. The guaranteed 15 percent profit was computed on the basis of an overpriced far, over-estimated traffic volume. There was no way the MRT could even break even with these conditions. Why did FVR and the DoTC then allow 15 percent profit, why not demand 5 percent or 3 percent since this is guaranteed anyway; but the corporate and bureaucratic swindlers’ wiles and greed knows no bounds. All other public mass transit systems in the world are planned on the basis of public service and as a component of the overall economy, and not for profit.

PeNoy and his Cabinet men are making it appear that “subsidy” for the people is a problematic thing, but they seem to think nothing wrong in subsidizing the oligarchs behind the MRT swindle. They are even insinuating that the lowering of the MRT fares in 1998, which was ordered by President Joseph Estrada, to be an error that caused the MRT’s financial problems. Truth is, practically no one was using the MRT in 1997 because of the exorbitant rates the investors set. Commuters started streaming into the train carriages only after Estrada lowered it because they could finally afford the fares. Over 10 years later, through convoluted arguments the private MRT owners in cahoots with a corrupt government and a clueless administrator retired from the PNP, finagled a buy-back from government funded by the DBP and Land Bank for P2.5 billion.

The PeNoy government and mainstream media are waylaying the public with Alice in Wonderland depictions: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’” (Through the Looking Glass) Who is subsidizing whom? In PeNoy’s World, it is clear the oligarchs are the masters. For us, the people’s welfare should rule. Justice William O. Douglas, referring to the US, copied by the Philippine elite: “Our upside down welfare state is ‘socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor.’ ‘The great welfare scandal of the age concerns the dole we give rich people.’”

(Tune to Sulo ng Pilipino, M-W-F 6 to 7 p.m. on 1098AM; watch Politics Today, Tuesday 8 to 9 p.m., Global News Network, Destiny Cable, Channel 21: “Meralco overcharging since 2007” and other power issues, with former Mayor Jun Simon and Nasecor’s Pete Ilagan; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com)

 (Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com2.html

Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb: Experts at desert survival FEATURE 08/02/2010

Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb: Experts at desert survival


NOUAKCHOTT — Small groups of Islamist militants weave through the desert in powerful 4x4’s. Armed to the teeth, they move under cover of darkness, hiding from spy-planes and satellites during the day.

A harsh, nearly unnavigable landscape, the desert has become their element.

A video shot in 2007 in northern Mali seen by AFP gives insight into what it takes for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to survive undetected in the vast desert of West Africa.

A 4.5-liter Toyota Landcruiser is loaded with spare wheels, 500-liter cans of fuel, jerry cans full of water, sleeping mats, tents and food. Perched on the back are four to six men holding Kalashnikovs or rocket launchers.

“They are better armed and equipped than the soldiers in the region,” says Mauritanian journalist Isselmou Ould Moustapha, a specialist on jihadism.

“Their drivers are experienced, often people of the desert. They have GPS and night vision goggles for night riding, off-track.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com3.html

Until when, up to where? HE SAYS Aldrin Cardon 08/02/2010

Until when, up to where?

Aldrin Cardon
If the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, signed last week by President Noynoy, was his gift to his departed mother, the late Cory Aquino whose death anniversary was commemorated yesterday, a year after it became the very long vault that catapulted the newly-empowered President to Malacañang, then he should assure that it does not become part of the political fiction factory that has long mired the country and its people in the gutters.

Why, there were reservations expressed about the much-vaunted Truth Commission!

From Noy’s choice of Hilario Davide to head it, to its redundancy as its job could be done by the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman — under ideal conditions, of course, it’s formation was not without hitches.

Its critics only came short of calling the Truth Commission myopic, but Sen. Joker Arroyo, who shared cells and many street battles with Noy’s father, the martyred Ninoy, came out to warn the young Aquino that his new body, created through Executive Order No. 1 (EO 1), is doomed to fail as it has no legal to stand on.

Arroyo, no relation to the main target of the Truth Commission but who was among those who supported her illegitimate reign for nine years, also claimed it would suffer from a legal infirmity, and was surprised Davide, who used to be Gloria Arroyo’s Chief Justice, happily clammed up about its legal flaws.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com4.html

Truth and consequence SHE SAYS Dinah S. Ventura 08/02/2010

Truth and consequence

Dinah S. Ventura
The recent State of the Nation Address (Sona) by President Noynoy Aquino may have ended up colored with each of our own perceptions and preconceived notions, but it certainly did one thing: it made us aware of the abuses of power that went on during the previous administration.

Some people may think the speech lacked the lofty effect that speeches of other presidents had, but I, for one, would gladly forego the flash and dash of promises for the plain unabbreviated truth.
P-Noy, being just weeks old in his post, had no major achievement of his own yet to report, so he detailed some of the shenanigans that went on in the recent past. Chief among the “mysteries” that his administration inherited is the overwhelming budget deficit of P196.7 billion. The depleted coffers, thinned out significantly in the first six months of this year, would not be able to fund all the country’s needs in education, infrastructure, health and security.

While he proposed new and creative ways to bring in the cash at the quickest possible time, his government is looking into the alleged anomalies in a number of agencies, especially those that he mentioned in his Sona..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com5.html

Philippine gun lovers celebrate new president FEATURE 08/02/2010

Philippine gun lovers celebrate new president


Standing amid an array of foreign assault rifles and local shotguns at one of the Philippines’ largest shopping malls, firearms aficionados celebrated the rise of the nation’s new president.

Benigno Aquino, who took office on June 30, is an avid sports shooter and clips on YouTube show him using a semi-automatic pistol with great skill at a target shooting competition.

“The feeling is that he is one of us. He also inhales gunpowder,” said Johnmuel Mendoza, head of PRO-Gun, the country’s largest firearms-rights group, at the twice-yearly gun show in Manila’s vast “Megamall.”

Indeed Aquino, the Supreme Court Chief Justice and other influential figures have been frequent visitors to the shows in recent years, according to Mendoza.

And in the gun-crazy Philippines, having a firearms exhibition alongside shops selling perfume, designer clothes and frozen yoghurt appears remarkably normal.

Women carrying infants and schoolchildren attended last month’s five-day show, not necessarily to buy guns but just to marvel at the weapons as if they were browsing through the mall’s more conventional retail outlets..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com6.html

Syria, Saudi buy time as Lebanon tensions rise — analysts ANALYSIS 08/02/2010

Syria, Saudi buy time as Lebanon tensions rise — analysts


BEIRUT — A landmark visit by Syrian and Saudi leaders may have helped to ease tensions in Lebanon, but did little to address the crux of the problem in the long-run, analysts said.
The Shiite militant group Hezbollah continues to warn against its implication in the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, however, sparking fears of yet another conflict in the tiny Mediterranean country.

“This is essentially a Saudi blessing for a return to Syrian domination of Lebanon,” said Beirut-based journalist Michael Young.

“I think it will calm domestic tensions for a time,” Young told AFP. “But I also think that the Syrian objective is to build on this so that they can return to a situation that more or less existed before their withdrawal in 2005.”
Assad and King Abdullah were in Lebanon on Friday for an hours-long visit, their first since 2002, which was swiftly followed by Qatar’s emir.

Assad’s visit was particularly controversial as his country was widely accused of the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005 in Beirut.

Damascus has consistently denied the accusations but nonetheless pulled its troops from Lebanon after the murder, following a 29-year presence..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com7.html

Tabloid governance EDITORIAL 08/02/2010

Tabloid governance

Click to enlarge
The Aquino administration is definitely all hammer and tongs in its effort against tax evasion and smuggling, that is at least in press statements, since up to now there is not one charged by both the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that can be classified a big fish and it is approaching a month after Noynoy and his shock economic team promised to present a major catch.

The press releases though were always impressive as Noynoy keeps promising an untouchable crook or crooks falling into his administration’s widened fishnet and lately, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has been saying that financial papers of rice traders are being reviewed, implying a crackdown on the dreaded rice cartel of the past administration.

What it has been passing off as a big fish thus far was an owner of a pawnshop chain that attained notoriety because of his owning a Lamborghini sports car while worming his way out of tax payments for the past seven years.
The sports car enthusiast even merited mention in Noynoy’s State of the Nation Address (Sona)..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100802com1.html

DND offers security to 2004 poll fraud witnesses By Mario J. Mallari 08/02/2010

DND offers security to 2004 poll fraud witnesses

By Mario J. Mallari
Protection, not persecution, awaits officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who would come out to spill the beans on the alleged manipulation of the 2004 presidential elections.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Eduardo Batac assured the witnesses the department, particularly the AFP, is ready to provide security to those who would come forward as witnesses should there be reinvestigation of the alleged electoral fraud in 2004.

“I am sure that there are certain arrangements that will be made for this (security) need. The Defense depart-ment, the AFP and all those who are concerned will take cognizance of this and will provide for the safety of whoever is going to come out as witnesses,” Batac told Camp Aguinaldo reporters.

At the same time, Batac welcomed the possible coming out of the Marine officers who have knowledge of the alleged electoral fraud but maintained the DND leadership is clueless what the concerned military men would be saying.

“As of now, they are not even talking of what is going to be said and the only thing is the statements have been given is they are willing to cooperate and under the guidance of the new administration for transparency. I think the Marine personnel in question are now more open or more at liberty to talk about what they really know. As to what they really know, we don’t know,” Batac said.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed2.html

Kris’ appeal: Praise Noy’s good deeds By Pat C. Santos 08/02/2010

Kris’ appeal: Praise Noy’s good deeds

By Pat C. Santos
President Aquino’s sister and TV host and actress Kristina Bernadette Aquino popularly known as Kris gave an advice to people who have been very critical of his brother to at least praise his good deeds even as he expressed being open to criticisms as head of government.

“To all the people who express love to our family thank you but to all of P’Noy critics while our family accepts criticisms may I say if there is a good thing that my brother has done please sound it loud so that the world could hear it” said Kris.

Kris issued the appeal during a speech she delivered early morning yesterday during the first death anniversary of her mother former President Corazon Aquino at the Ninoy-Cory Aquino Park at the Luneta.

The event, which was hosted by the City of Manila, was attended by Aquino, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Peping Cojuangco, Butch Aquino, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Public Works and Highways Secretary Ping de Jesus.

“P-Noy chose not to marry yet to focus on servicing the Filipino nation so what he is asking is for the public to support him,” she said.

President Aquino also led family and friends in a special mass that celebrated the heroism of his mother, who in her trademark yellow dress led the “people power” uprising to end the 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.....MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed3.html

EU envoy presses Manila to ratify RH bill By Michaela P. del Callar 08/02/2010

EU envoy presses Manila to ratify RH bill

By Michaela P. del Callar
European Union’s top diplomat to Manila has urged the Aquino administration to certify the immediate ratification of the reproductive health bill and to live up to its international pledge to promote maternal health under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

EU Ambassador Alistair MacDonald said rapid population growth in the Philippines has been draining the country of its economic resources and continues to hamper the nation’s development.

“The Philippine government has committed itself to the MDG and several of these MDGs require that maternal mortality is reduced and that child mortality is reduced and people generally have effective access to reproductive health services. It’s the Philippine government that signed up to that,” MacDonald told the Tribune in an interview.
The MDGs are time-bound, concrete and specific goals that 189 world leaders committed to achieving by 2015 in September 2000. These goals are: 1) end extreme poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; and 8) develop a global partnership for development. 

The Philippines continues to lag behind in implementing these goals..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20100802nat1.html

Noynoy says pilots in PAL row may be liable By Marie A. Surbano 08/02/2010


Noynoy says pilots in PAL row may be liable

By Marie A. Surbano
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) yesterday said it rejected the resignation of more than two dozens of its pilots and gave them seven days to return to work or face court charges as President Aquino said his government would intervene in the labor dispute which had caused flight cancellations.

Aquino added labor officials would study whether the pilots had breached their contracts.

“If this was not warranted, then they lay themselves also open to appropriate charges,” Aquino said.
The Association of Airline Pilots of the Philippines, which represents the PAL pilots, could not be reached immediately for comment.

In a statement, PAL said the resignation of more than two dozen pilots is illegal and violative of their existing contracts.

PAL cancelled another eight flights yesterday after calling off 11 international and domestic flights the other day when the crisis within the airline as a result of pilot shortage. PAL said most of the affected passengers in the cancelled flights were accommodated in merged or succeeding flights.

“PAL will make sure that all passengers are attended to,” the airline said as it assured the public that it hopes to get schedules back to normal within a week.

The eight cancelled flights yesterday included the Manila-Cagayan-Manila (PR181/182); Manila-Bacolod-Manila (PR133/134); Manila-Iloilo-Manila (PR147/148); and Manila-Cebu-Manila (PR847/848). Meanwhile, a Manila-Iloilo-Manila flight (PR145/146) that usually departs Manila at 4:20 pm but was rescheduled to 6:30 pm.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed1.html

Suspect in Maguindanao massacre arrested 08/02/2010

Suspect in Maguindanao massacre arrested

Government security forces yesterday said they had arrested a former member of the Civilian Volunteers’ Organization (CVO) who was among over 100 suspects still wanted for the Maguindanao Massacre, the country’s worst ever political violence.

Police arrested Edris Kasan at the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital where he was taken after being shot in an unrelated incident last Friday, police spokesman Senior Supt. Agrimero Cruz said.

“He was placed under police custody early Sunday because he is on the list of wanted persons in connection with the Maguindanao massacre,” Cruz told reporters.

He said Kasan was one of more than 100 suspects still at large for the November massacre, in which 57 persons, including 31 journalists, were killed near a busy highway in the southern province of Maguindanao.

The massacre was allegedly orchestrated by the Ampatuan clan, and was meant to prevent a rival from challenging them in local elections..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed4.html

Truth body EO vague, filled with loopholes — solons By Angie M. Rosales 08/02/2010

Truth body EO vague, filled with loopholes — solons

By Angie M. Rosales

President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission remains vague on the body’s powers and jurisdiction, senators said yesterday.

“That is a very very problematic draft there,” Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, noting the apparent lack of law or attribution to an existing law in which the commission can operate on.

“If there’s no original law passed by Congress, the President cannot issue an EO,” she added.
Santiago explained that normally, the EOs issued by the President are anchored on administrative Code of 1987 or any existing laws.

“For example, the President does not have the power to issue subpoenas because the power belongs to the judicial branch, unless there is a law given by Congress to the President to issue the power of subpoena. From what I understand, the Truth Commission has power of subpoena,” Santiago said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed5.html

Obama okays new funds for Pinoy war veterans 08/02/2010

Obama okays new funds for Pinoy war veterans


US President Barack Obama has signed into law the provision of additional funding for Filipino World War II veterans compensation program.

Signed last July 29, House Resolution 4899, or the “Supplemental Appro-priations Act 2010,” provides that $67 million or roughly P3.1 billion may be used for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Program.

The overwhelming majority of veterans’ claims have been decided and continue to be paid with the $198 million in original funding. 

The US Embassy in Manila said the supplement will ensure speedy compensation to all eligible Filipino
veterans, including those whose denied claims are successfully appealed..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100802hed6.html

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