A national disaster

With the Supreme Court ruling unanimously that the Development Acceleration Program of the Aquino administration is “unconstitutional”, Malacanang spokespersons had a tough time trying to deflect the public anger and demands for the resignation of DBM Secretary Butch Abad.
We did nothing wrong,” said Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma. His deputy, Edwin Lacierda, tried to soften the impact of the ruling by saying that DAP may have been declared “unconstitutional”, but “not illegal”.
But the public anger isn’t about to die down. In fact, it’s turning out to be a wildfire that is burning out of control. The Aquino government is under siege from the people, and every word that comes out from its spokes persons only succeed in fueling the fire, like gasoline used to douse it.
in Iloilo City, lawyers ridiculed Lacierda. Atty. Dan Cartagena asked this question: “Where did Lacierda get his law degree?” His post drew a long thread of unkind words from his brethren in the legal profession. 

In my own column, “Coffeebreak”, I wrote that this caused the death of decency in our government. That perception is reinforced by the stubborn refusal of Mr. Aquino and his key aides in even just admitting they had done wrong. The pressure is building up on Abad to resign. Even an administration ally, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, said Abad should resign.

What is happening is a national disaster. We now have a government trying to plug the sieves as the ship is sinking fast.

Journalism and technology

I feel a deep sense of contentment as I sip a scaldingly hot cup of instant coffee this morning, a Sunday.
I have just finished my column for The Daily Guardian-Western Visayasfor tomorrow and submitted it by email.
I am “back in the groove” as a full-time journalist.
Often, I look back to my early days as a journalist and find amusement in comparing the tools of the trade.
Back in the 80s, I pounded out my stories on a manual typewriter, consuming reams and reams of bond paper every year. I was the type of writer who didn’t like to see many corrections, which are typed-over with x’s. I would often rip out the bond paper on the typewriter and replace it with a fresh blank page until I am satisfied with the copy (the technical journalism term for news story).
The first time I had my hands on a personal computer was sometime in 1985. My friend Joseph Marie Maravilla Alba ran a computer training school near our editorial office in the Yuhum Bldg. and he allowed me to write my columns and editorials on a PC/XT. It had a green monochrome monitor with RAM of only 64KB! Files had to be saved on 5 and 1/4″ floppy disks.
Writing became a totally different experience when I started using a computer. Not having to type-over with x’s the errors was a liberating experience for me. It allowed me to concentrate on the thinking part of the writing, not the mechanical act of typing.
In 1991, my mom Linda Mejorada gave me a Tandy laptop computer from RadioShack as Christmas gift when I visited her in New Jersey. I felt I was in heaven. It had an LCD screen and 256-kb RAM. The files were stored in a smaller but bigger capacity 3.5″ floppy disks. Battery life was only 2 hours. I was so proud to own that.
After that, computer technology spun so fast that laptop models became obsolete in less than a year. I haven’t been without a laptop ever since.
In the late 90s, Palm rolled out its PDAs with handwriting recognition. For almost a decade, I was hooked to the brand, changing models as often as they came out in the market. I switched to Blackberry about seven years ago because I needed the push-technology for email.
I had been a Windows guy until three years ago when Rommel Ynionintroduced me to Apple. He gave me an Apple Mac Air and iPad (which was followed by a MacBook Pro). Now my loyalties are divided. I switch back and forth between my Windows gadgets and my IOS gadgets (I’m writing this on an Apple Mac Book Pro).
I dumped Blackberry last year after it failed to keep up with the advances made by Android devices. Sometime in October 2013, Samsung came out with its Note 3, and Smart offered it under a postpaid plan. Mine had just expired and I was persuaded to try the Note 3.
That switch to Samsung was one of those giant leaps for me in picking gadgets for the trade. It put me connected to the Internet 24/7 and provided almost every tool I needed as a journalist. It has a great camera. I am enamored with its S-pen technology for my notes.
At this point, I feel I have more than adequate in terms of technology needs. But those engineers at the computer and smart phone companies aren’t getting tired of making innovations and introducing new technology. 
In the end, being a journalist isn’t really about technology. These gadgets won’t make you a good writer. They do make life easier though.




The phone bill issue: a non-issue

The Capitol propaganda machinery whirled into action over the weekend trying to peddle the story that Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. wants to check the Globe cell phone subscription that was assigned to me during the past administration and find out if the calls made through it were “official”.

The issue is that Globe has sent a legal demand to the Capitol for the settlement of over P40,000 in charges. The Capitol spin is that this is scandalous, because it now appears I abused and misused the cell phone for excessive personal calls. Indeed, if I were in his place, I’d be appalled to see such a big amount on the phone bill, especially when it used to be assigned to his most hated enemy: me.

Defensor is wasting his energy trying to build up this issue. It is a non-issue. He is wandering in the forest, like a man who lost his memory and could not navigate through clearly-marked trails he had traversed over and over again. He should be spared the effort. I can see he can hardly walk straight, and walking 50 meters is already like a full marathon for him. Let me enlighten him.

The Globe subscription was contracted by the Capitol. It underwent the procurement process. The line was assigned to me by former Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. because as Provincial Administrator, I handled a heavy volume of communications. If I remember correctly, it was started in early 2007. Hence, the legality or propriety of having a line to me is not an issue. The Commission on Audit never raised it as an audit finding.

As most subscriptions go, there is a “lock-in” period. In early 2009, it was renewed for another 24 months. My charges never exceeded the P3,500 monthly fixed rate that Globe billed for that plan. For the record, I have a Smart post-paid plan which I paid, and continue to pay, from my own pocket.

The problem arose in the middle of 2009 when the Sangguniang Panlalawigan cut by more than half the communications budget of the Office of the Governor. It was part of the political sabotage carried out by allies of Defensor in the previous administration led by then Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico. Almost all operational budgets of the Office of the Governor were slashed to a bare minimum. The objective was to paralyze the Executive and weaken the political stature of Tupas.

With the communications budget drastically reduced, the Capitol wasn’t able to pay the monthly bills on that Globe subscription. Because of the lock-in, the company continued to send its monthly bill even though the service had long been cut. Hence, the amount now being demanded by Globe isn’t because there was excessive and abusive use of the line. It was because the monthly bills had piled up, and the amount rose to more than P40,000.

In other words, there is nothing for Defensor to investigate. The charges rose even though it wasn’t being used. The bills, I presume, continued to reach the Capitol since Defensor assumed office on June 30, 2010, but he, too, did nothing to settle that. He allowed the problem to persist, even though as a lawyer, he knew that it was a contractual obligation of the Province. My name appeared on the bill only because it was assigned to me.

It amuses me that Defensor would create so much fuss about the issue. But I guess he needs something to hit back at me because I embarrassed him a number of times with stories I wrote, especially on the lack of medicines. He needs to show to the people that I was involved in some anomaly. Unfortunately for him, the scheme will backfire on him.

A TV reporter told me Defensor had threatened to sue me to demand that I pay the charges. It’s a ridiculous threat. Defensor should read his law book on Obligations and Contracts. How can he make me pay for an obligation of the Province? Maybe he was misinformed. Maybe his aides didn’t tell him the true nature of the accumulated bill.

What Defensor ought to do is summon his aides and tell them to give him the complete picture. He was fed half-truths and he quickly bit on the issue, thinking he had a big bat to hit me. He should reprimand them for placing him in this embarrassing situation. This should teach him a lesson that he should study an issue thoroughly before he says anything.