Duque

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III might not be the best person to head the agency, but I don’t think there’s a need for him to resign as what some senators are demanding. One of them, Senator Grace Poe, said that Duque “failed the minimum standard of leadership.” Poe and 14 other Senators signed a resolution calling for Duque’s resignation because he allegedly failed to get mass Covid 19 testing into place. He is also being accused of gagging medical personnel and dragged his feet on getting FDA approval for Covid 19 testing laboratories.

The Senators are playing politics. They are placing into the feelings of discontent expressed by some people, and twisted the facts out of proportion. The allegations against Duque are thinly disguised attempts to distract the government’s efforts to combat the corona virus. For a month now, Senators have been pushed back the national stage. Their only role was to enact legislation to support the government’s Covid 19 response program.

Must Duque be blamed for the lack of mass testing capability? In case these Senators haven’t noticed, the Philippines isn’t the only nation that struggled with mass testing capabilities. Even the great United States of America was stymied in that area. The Covid 19 is a new virus, and the production of mass testing kits was limited. The pandemic hit the whole world at the same time. In the mad rush for testing kits, the Philippines had to compete with other nations to get hold of these testing kits.

Maybe the Senators ought to be reminded that government procurement was hampered by stringent procedures before the emergency was declared. In fact, my friend Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was quick to tell the DOH it could not do away with RA 9184 in trying to procure testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time the emergency powers were granted, the rest of the world was already ablaze with the disease.

This is the reason that we had to depend on donations from China, South Korea and other nations for our Covid 19 response capability at the start of this crisis.

On the matter of FDA approval for testing laboratories, the Senators must understand that it isn’t a matter of filling up application forms and pushing the paperwork around. There are strict protocols to be followed. And the FDA was overwhelmed by avalance of bureaucratic challenges that included evaluation of locally produced testing kits and potential drugs. It was like a squad of the Army being attacked by the entire New People’s Army at the crack of dawn.

No matter how great the pressure was on them, the FDA could not afford to take short-cuts, unlike what the government did when then DOH Secretary Janette Garin pushed for the early approval of Dengvaxia vaccine and pave the way for its anomalous procurement in 2015.

I admit Duque lacks certain qualities that inspire public confidence. But I don’t think it amounts to critical leadership lapses that endangered people’s lives. We must not lose sight of the fact that we have effectively contained the virus after a month, notwithstanding the failure of local government units in Metro Manila to strictly enforce the home quarantine. The numbers do not lie. The Philippines still ranks low in terms of Covid 19 infections.

Finally, these Senators need to be reminded that Duque needs only to have the full trust and confidence of one person: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. If he has accountability, it’s to the President of the Republic, unless, of course, he has broken laws. So far, the issue is more of his perceived lack of leadership by standards imposed by Senators who don’t have a clue about what the situation demands. It’s a matter that’s outside their league.

It would be better for them to let the crisis end before Senator Poe gets back to her practice of unproductive investigations in aid of legislation.

Iloilo on the world stage in fight vs. Covid 19

The images of Ilonggo doctors, nurses and hospital staff wearing brightly-colored personal protective clothing have spread across the world to bring cheer and hope to the hundreds of millions of people quarantined in their homes because of the corona virus pandemic.

It just started as an idea on how to provide PPEs for Iloilo hospitals at a time when these were in short supply. A nurse at the Medical City, Andre Pe, decided medical front-liners shoudn’t have to wait until the first shipments of PPEs arrived in Iloilo City. The Covid 19 virus wasn’t about to slow down to give our hospitals time to prepare.

Pe, who has a passion for fashion design, took out his pencils and paper and went to work. He quickly drew a design for PPEs that volunteers could use to sew them. Iloilo City mayor Jerry P. Trenas came to know about the initial batch of PPEs that Pe and his group had turned out, and he saw it was an answer to Iloilo’s inadequate supply to shield frontliners from this deadly virus. He directive mass production of the PPEs.

Pe’s design called for bright colors of liquid-repelling materials. There was blue, red, pink, black and white. In a few days, the production lines were churning attractive-looking PPEs. It certainly lifted the spirits of the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that started wearing them. Instead of letting the threat of Covid 19 to worry them, they started posting pictures and videos of themselves wearing the locally-produced PPEs.

The images and videos instantly captured the hearts of people here and abroad. These were shared and reshared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Ilonggos taught people around the world that we know how to fight this disease, and fight we will with flair and cheer. It wasn’t just about the PPEs being colorful and attractive. The effort has even adopted movie themes like “Star Wars” to add fashion flavor to the design.

The viral photos and videos also reflect the solid community effort that has been put into Iloilo’s efforts against the corona virus. Trenas and Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr., along with the local chief executives of the province, have done well to enforce the enhanced community quarantine to keep the virus from infecting more people. From the reports of the DOH, Iloilo has effectively contained the virus. The number of infections has been kept to a minimum.

On a personal note, I am saddened that a close family friend in Roxas City has become a casualty of the virus. The feeling is different when somebody you know falls victim to Covid 19. In the past, the soaring number of deaths were clinical statistics as I watched the WHO and DOH briefings on a daily basis. But when the sad news about my friend’s death reached me, I discovered that the Covid 19 pandemic is much closer to me than I was prepared to accept.

It reinforces the message that nobody is safe from Covid 19. You can never know who might be a carrier of the virus. Even a healthy looking individual can be a bearer of death. Hence, it’s absolutely necessary that we adhere to the home quarantine that’s being enforced. Just by staying at home, we can save lives. This is a crucial part of the containment strategy that is the only effective way to bring the pandemic to a halt.

Grace Poe pumapapel sa gitna ng krisis

Kumukulo ang dugo ko dahil sa pagbatikos na naman ni Senator Grace Poe sa Department of Health sa binili nitong mga protetive personal equipment o PPE para sa ating mga doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners na lumalaban sa Covid 19 pandemic.

Overpriced daw ang binili ng DOH sa halagang P1,800 bawat set ng PPE. Sa kanyang canvass daw, ang bawat isa ay pumipresyo lang ng P400 hanggang P1,000 per set. Pero hindi naman niya sinabi kung saan siya nag canvass, at kung ano ang material na ginamit para dito.

Sa paglilinaw ni DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, hindi pare-pareho ang paggawa ng mga PPE. Ayon sa kanya, itong binili ng DOH ay top-of-the-line. Pinakatibay panglaban sa mga infectious disease. Kaya may kamahalan

Oo nga naman, Senator Grace.

Kahit sa anong gamit, iba iba ang presyo. May fake na Rolex na mabibili mo sa halagang P500. Yung genuine at hindi mo mabili ng mas mababa sa P250,000. Meron pa nga milyon-milyon. It’s the same thing with cell phones and many other gadgets. May peke. May genuine. Siyempre mura ang peke.

More than that, we are living in dangerous times. And that danger is nowhere more present than our hospitals where Covid 19 patients are being treated. Our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, staff and even janitors are exposed to the virus 24/7.

Hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang panganib na hinaharap nila. As of last night, 19 na yata ang mga doctor na namatay dahil sa sakit na ito.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon, time is of the utmost essence. Rush, rush, rush. At lahat na bansa ngayon ay nag-aagawan para makabili ng PPEs para sa kanilang mga hospital frontliners. It’s the basic law of supply and demand at work. The DOH just had to buy by the hundreds of thousands of sets ASAP. Wala nang panahon upang makipagtawaran.

Gusto lang talaga ni Senator Poe na magpaporma at the expense of the government’s efforts to combat this pandemic. What is she trying to prove? That she is for clean government? Holy shit! Puro Senate investigation na nga lang ang ginagawa niya. Wala namang positive output.

For example, she conducted hearings into the drug situation in Iloilo just before the 2016 elections. She was running for President, and apparently, she figured it would help varnish her image if she looked to be tough on illegal drugs.

Subalit wala namang nangyari pagkaraan ng limang taon. Poof! The issue vanished into thin air.

Kaya Madam Senator, please keep your mouth shut at this time.

We heal as one, but dilawans keep pulling nation down

Two days ago, inulunsad ang isang serye ng mga online concerts na may tema na “We heal as one” sa gitna ng krisis dulot ng Covid 19 pandemic sa bansa.

Indeed, this is a time for everybody to close ranks and fight this disease as one people. Mas malubha pa sa pandaigdig na digmaan ito. Kailangan magtulongan tayo upang masugpo ang sakit. Sana makalimutan muna ang political divisiveness. Malaking kahirapan ang nasa harap natin, pero kailangan maging matatag ang kalooban natin at mag-tiis. This requires big sacrifice.

Kaya nalulungkot ako na makita ang mga dilawan at mga leftist groups na patuloy na ina-atake ang ating gobyerno on the propaganda front. Uma-agaw eksena sila sa bawat pagkakataon. Walang pahinga sa paghanap ng dahilan upang maka reklamo. Gusto nila ipalabas na hindi ginagawa ng gobyerno ang katungkulan nito sa taong bayan.

There will be a time for accountability. But not now.

Bigyan natin ang gobyerno, lalo na si President Duterte, ng pagkataon na mamuno na walang hadlang at abala. Kung may kapalpakan sa mga ahensiya, nakakasiguro ako na nakikita yan ni President Duterte. Hiindi nakakatulong ang pag-iingay.

LET US HEAL AS ONE.

Ambush ni Kim Chiu part of destabilization plot

From day one after the news came out that actress Kim Chiu was ambushed in Quezon City on March 4, a thought had already occupied my mind that this was not what it looked like: an attack on a young celebrity in the streets of the national capital.

And the more I puzzled over the incident, the idea gradually formed that there’s a sinister plot behind it, and the target wasn’t Kim Chiu. It didn’t take long before I became convinced it was a staged ambush to cause widespread anger about the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Isa po itong pakulo ng mga dilawan sa kanilang patuloy na black propaganda campaign against the Duterte government. Their purpose is to bring down President Duterte and pave the way for Vice President Leni Robredo to ascend to the Presidency.

Panoorin niyo ang viral video na ginawa ko sa YouTube:

Mag-ingat! Uma-atake ang dilaw na veerus!

As millions of Filipinos live in fear because of the corona virus (Covid 19) pandemic now sweeping through the archipelago, it is lamentable to see the yellow army stepping up their propaganda campaign to erode the people’s confidene in our government.

Wala silang pahinga sa pagpakalat ng kasinungalingan at distorted na impormasyon sa social media sa kanilang plano na pahina-in ang pamahalaan ni President Duterte kahit na araw-araw, lumalala ang sitwasyon sa ating bansa.

They want to sow fear and confusion. They want to destabilize the government.

Alam nilang abala si Pangulong Duterte at ang kanyang Cabinet, kaya sinasamantala nila ang sitwasyon upang atakehin na parang anay ang kalooban ng ating bansa. Inu-udyok nila ang taong bayan na magalit kay Pangulong Duterte.

May masamang balak sila. Gusto nila i-oust si Pangulong Duterte at papalitan ni Leni Robredo.

Panoorin niyo po ang YouTube video na ito upang ma-unawaan.

Benenta na ba nila ang kanilang kaluluwa?

Judging from the actions and statements coming from a number of Senators and Congressmen and -women, it would seem that they have swept aside standards of ethical behavior to accommodate a panicky oligarch-owned television and radio network in its bid to obtain a new franchise from Congress.

For instance, Senator Grace Poe is breaking the rules on the grant of legislative franchises in pushing for an early hearing on the network’s renewal application which has remained stuck in the Lower House. Alam ni Poe na hindi makagalaw ang Senado hanggat na-approve na ng House of Representatives ang bill para sa panibagong franchise. Sa ngayon, wala pa kahit bill. Application pa lang.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who acknowledges that ABS-CBN cannot operate without a franchise, is trying to introduce a band-aid solution by filing a Joint Resolution to give the network authority to operate until December 31, 2022. Baka lang kinakalawang na si Manong Frank, pero franchise po ang kailangan. Sir, alam mo yan na hindi mapalitan ng Joint Resolution ang franchise. Wala naman sa batas ang temporary legislative authority, di po ba?

Dalawang bagay lang yan.

It’s either takot sila sa ABS-CBN, or lobby money is at work.

This is the tragedy of this Republic. Meron pa rin tayong mga elected officials na nakakalimot ng kanilang totoong tungkulin, at ito po ang maglingkod para sa mamayan at hindi para sa mayayaman.

PRESS FREEDOM: Hindi panangga ito sa ginawang kasalanan

Wala tayong mahanap na provision sa 1987 Constitution na nagbibigay sa mga media organizations o mga kasapi nito ng karapatan na mag-violate sa mga batas ng bansa by just invoking PRESS FREEDOM.

The Constitution protects freedom of the press. Ibig sabihin, kailangan mabigyan ang ating media ng sapat na kalayaan sa pag report ng balita o pagbigay ng mga kommentaryo tungkol sa mga pangyayari sa lipunan. But even that right is not absolute. May libel laws tayo na nagbabawal ng mga malisyosong pag print o broadcast ng mga bagay na maaraming maka-sira sa pangalan o pagkatao ng iba. Hindi porket totoo ay puwede na nating isulat at post sa Facebook o Twitter o ilabas sa media.

Ang kaso na isinampa sa ABS-CBN ay walang kinalaman sa kung anuman ang mga pahayag nito sa television.

Natuklasan ng Office of the Solicitor General na marami silang nagawang violations sa ating batas. Malalaking krimen. Panlilinlang sa mga subscribers nito. The network is alleged to have ripped off hundreds of millions of pesos from illegal transactions. HIndi pa nga yata kasama diyan yung pag-WRITE OFF, o pagbura, ng utang nito sa Development Bank of the Philippines. Utang nila galing sa pera ng bansa, hindi na siningil.

SO WHAT ASSAULT ON PRESS FREEDOM ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, ABS-CBN?

At malinaw na binibigyan sila ng DUE PROCESS. Pinapadaan ito sa Supreme Court, ang pinakataas na hukoman sa bansa. May pagkakataon itong mapahayag ang panig. Kung talagang wala naman silang ginawa na kasalanan, di ma di-dismiss ang kaso. At wala itong kinalaman sa kanilang application for renewal of franchise. Ang mga Congressmen ang kausapin nila tungkol diyan, hindi si Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Sa madaling salita, huwag niyong gamitin na SHIELD, o panangga, ang pangalan ng PRESS FREEDOM upang maka-iwas kayo sa mga pananagutan sa batas na inireklamo ni Calida sa Supreme Court. Fight on the merits of the case.

ILOILO CONVENTION CENTER: Mother of all DAP scams

Press release

January 30, 2020

Front view

 

ICC lease contract ‘onerous’ – Mejorada

 

The lease contract awarded to an Iloilo-based company to operate and manage the Iloilo Convention Center four years ago is “onerous, lopsided and grossly disadvantageous to the government”, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said.

In a six-page complaint filed with the Office of the Solicitor General on Tuesday, Mejorada said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) can expect to generate only P74 million in rentals over a period of 25 years, which is less than 10 percent return-on-investment (ROI) based on total expenditures of around P750 million.

Mejorada asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to conduct a review pursuant to a directive of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to look into onerous contracts between the government and private entities.

The contract should be “rescinded, revoked and nullified”, Mejorada said.

“This contract is the mother of all scams,” he said.

Mejorada also wrote a similar letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

In his complaint, Mejorada said the lease, operate and manage (LOM) contract signed by and between TIEZA and Premier Islands Management Corp. on March 11, 2016 violated the terms of reference (TOR) issued for this purpose.

The TOR, for instance, used only P330 million as the “asset valuation” for the ICC, which is less than half of the actual expenditures, he said.

He said the actual expenditures of P750 million came from then TIEZA Assistant Chief Operating Officer Jethro Nicolas Lozada.

He said TIEZA removed the P300 million that was spent for the project from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in order to bring down the asset value and make the lease payments feasible to potential bidders.

“There was no legal basis in just writing off the P300 million from the books of TIEZA for the ICC,” he said.

It appears that then DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson waived off the recovery of the DAP money spent for the project during a meeting of the TIEZA board, he said.

“That is a blatant violation of COA rules and regulations in the disposition of public funds, an act constituting economic plunder,” he said.

Moreover, he questioned the adoption of P330 million as asset valuation.

With the actual expenditures placed at P750 million, and the write-off of P300 million, there is still P120 million that is not accounted for, he said.

It is common practice among real estate developers to recover the capital investments after 4 to 6 years, he said.

“That means within that period, a 100% recovery of the capital is achieved,” he pointed out.

In the case of the ICC, the total amount of fixed annual revenues and percentage share of gross sales won’t even reach 10% after 25 years, Mejorada said.

Mejorada said this asset valuation doesn’t take into account the value of the 1.7-hectare lot on which the ICC stands.

At a conservative price of P30,000 per sqm., the lot itself was worth P510 million, he said.

“In real terms, the real value of the ICC for purposes of computing the ROI should be P1.25 billion,” he said. “And that is a conservative amount,” he added.

Mejorada said the TIEZA violated the TOR in awarding the contract to PIMC.

“First, the indicative fixed annual revenue of 1% of the asset valuation was P3.3 million for the first year,” he said.

However, the contract set the fixed annual revenue for the first year at only P1.2 million, he said.

He said the percentage share from gross revenues in the ICC operations was fixed at 15% for each year.

But in the contract, the percentage share was only 5%, he added. (30)

 

 

Picking the next PNP chief

I was writing this article when news came out on my Google feed that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was coming home earlier than scheduled due to “unbearable pain” that apparently was caused by his motorcycle accident last week.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday posted a picture of the President with his head resting on a cane that he had been using while attending the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in Japan. He is scheduled to see his doctor upon arrival in Manila.

I am praying this pain is not due to a life-threatening injury as a result of the accident.

An important decision also needs to be made by the President upon his arrival. With the resignation of erstwhile PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde, the Philippine National Police needs to regain traction and restore the morale of its policemen and -women in the entire archipelago. The charges that Albayalde had covered up for the ninja cops and even put them in key positions when he became PNP chief seriously damaged the PNP’s image as an institution. Respect for the badge and uniform was undermined.

With this in mind, President Duterte needs to choose carefully from among the nominees submitted by DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano. Three of the front-runners are PNP OIC Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa, deputy director for operations, P/Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan and directorate staff chief P/Major General Guillermp Eleazar.

As an Ilonggo, and a Filipino, I am pushing for General Cascolan.

I have known Punky since he was a P/Chief Inspector more than 20 years ago. He has an unblemished track record. His performance has consistently been excellent. He is also actively campaigning for better benefits for retired Philippine Constabulary and PNP personnel. His heart is close to the men in the field. Respect for Punky is high.

The last aspect is critical at this point in the history of the PNP.

What the PNP needs is a leader with unquestioned integrity, an individual who has earned the trust and confidence of every man and woman in the organization. Cascolan is the man of the hour. His proven integrity will quickly repair the tarnished image of the organization. There isn’t a shadow of involvement in wrongdoing in his entire career as a police officer.

If the President doesn’t feel he wants Cascolan to be the PNP chief, then I believe the incumbent Officer-in-Charge, Lieut. Gen. Gamboa is equally capable and competent.

I watched his press conference a few days ago when he announced the dismissal of three policemen involved in the Nov. 29, 2013 fake drug buy-bust over another serious offense, I saw that he is cool and composed under fire. He is a good communicator, which is also a key skill that the next PNP chief needs to get it out of the rut.

As to P/Major Gen. Eleazar, I must confess that I don’t trust the guy. Besides, he was kicked upstairs by Albayalde just before his downfall in an apparent move to place him in contention for the position he was set to vacate.

Right now, anybody with a stain from Albayalde’s hand shouldn’t be given a key position. With the little I know about Eleazar, I could sense that he is clone of Albayalde. Even their moves, especially their penchant for bringing the media to document their surprise inspections, come from the same template. He isn’t an officer I would want to see as chief of the PNP.