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None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

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Accountability, transparency take root in a Laguna barangay

My good friend, Eugenio “Jun” Ynion, Jr. has encountered rough sailing during his first 10 months as barangay captain of San Antonio, San Pedro City, Laguna. But the turbulence isn’t about to slow him down. Kap Jun is firmly erecting the pillars for a genuine, working model of a “zero-corruption”-based governance. In this age when even the helmsman of the “matuwid na daan” is beset by scandals involving corruption, Barangay San Antonio is demonstrating “zero-corruption” is not a Quixotic-venture. It is happening.

Kap Jun began his term of office at noon of Nov. 30, 2013. He hit the ground running, and has never called for time-out ever since. He quickly set his sights on peace and order, health and livelihood. Progress can never be achieved in his barangay unless he tackled the “fundamentals”, what he labelled as the “Three Ks” which stand for “Kapaligaran, Kalusugan at Kaunlaran”. With his compass set, Kap Jun worked tirelessly to make the lives of his constituents better. And in doing that, he always kept the “zero-corruption” advocacy as his center of gravity.10721308_10204276474767012_799003570_n

A YouTube video highlights the achievements of Kap Jun during his first 10 months. Along the way, he has had to endure black propaganda from an insecure City Mayor who felt threatened by his upsurge in popularity. Barangay San Antonio has the second largest number of voters in San Pedro City. It can easily place Kap Jun within striking distance of the mayorship if he sets his eyes on it.

What is significant about Kap Jun’s first leg of the journey is the no-nonsense adherence to the principles for accountability, transparency and honesty. From Day One, he scorned traditional politics. He made it known that he will not tolerate lazy and dishonest individuals in the barangay LGU, whether elected or appoint. “There will be no sacred cows,” he told his people, time and again. Unfortunately, there have been quite a number who didn’t take him seriously; quickly, they were shown the exit door.

Kap Jun runs the barangay the way he does his businesses. He rewards performance but shows little tolerance for slackers. Everybody is on their feet. To make sure there are no excuses for not being able to carry out their mission, Kap Jun procured the best possible equipment for the barangay. He wants to be ready for any eventuality, particularly in disaster risk management. Barangay San Antonio is perhaps the only one in the country with an amphibious vehicle to undertake rescue work during floods.

Early in his term, Kap Jun watched in frustration when a big fire devoured hundreds of houses in his barangay. The city’s sole firetruck was so decrepit and slow it arrived last. Maharlika fireWhen it reached the scene, it could not even start to help put out the fire. It was largely because of firetrucks from adjoining LGUs that the fire was prevented from causing more destruction.

Because of that experience, Kap Jun spent his own money to advance the payment for the barangay’s own firetruck. “Never again will I let that scenario happen,” he said. Aside from a firetruck, Barangay San Antonio has its own ambulance that provides constituents requiring transport to a hospital free services.

Education has become the centerpiece program of his administration. It is the only avenue that he can lay down for the poor so that they could liberate themselves from poverty, he said. His barangay has set aside huge amounts of money for scholarships in high school and college. Later in the month, lady volunteers led by his wife, Carissa Gonzales-Ynion, will embark on a “food-for-school” feeding program for indigent pupils. He understands that hungry pupils will find it hard to absorb their lessons.

What has triggered a wave of excitement in the barangay is the establishment of a micro-financing program Kap Jun has set up with a bank. For the first time, small entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs can gain access to low-interest loans to fund their businesses. This micro-lending scheme will liberate micro-entrepreneurs from the usurious lenders that constantly keep them choked. Training programs are also being carried out to teach constituents simple skills they can turn into livelihood opportunities.

For Kap Jun, progress can never flourish in an environment where peace and order is not stable. This is the reason he invested heavily in improving the peace and order capability of his barangay. To improve mobility, he procured two Nissan pick up patrol cars and 10 motorcycles. Swift communications is ensured by 50 radio handsets for the barangay tanods and police in his jurisdiction.Barangay patrol motorcycles In less than two minutes, any call for help will be bring barangay tanods to the scene, he said.

Like any barangay, San Antonio has its share of the illegal drugs problem. But Kap Jun didn’t resign to the problem. He took the offensive tack. He offered cash incentives to the police and tanods for the arrest and capture of drug dealers in his barangay. To make sure these drug villains stay in jail long, he offered additional rewards for law enforcers who catch them with non-bailable offenses. So far, his program has netted 18 drug pushers, definitely a record in such a short time.

The environment is also top priority for Kap Jun. Among the first things he did upon assuming office was clean the streets. He adopted a strict rule on uncollected garbage. To promote responsible solid waste practices, he put up huge garbage bins in strategic locations where people can dump their “basura”.  He has made tree planting a regular activity in the barangay. His goal is plant 20,000 trees to make San Antonio a green community.

Kap Jun showed that when he pushed for environmental protection, everybody in the barangay will have to take it seriously. Early this year, a tire rubber recycling company continue to spew dirty and putrid smoke into the air in violation of environmental laws. Without delay, Kap Jun went knocking on the gates of the company with a simple message: clean up or shut down.

His sterling performance is not going unnoticed. One incumbent city councilor of San Pedro City remarked that Kap Jun’s brand of leadership is not only for his barangay, but for the entire city. No wonder Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz is perturbed. For an administration rocked by corruption scandals and poor services, it’s not hard for Kap Jun to gain the admiration and support of many people who want him to bring his leadership to a higher plane.

Indeed, Kap Jun has proven that the way to good governance is accountability and transparency. It is an effective approach to building confidence in the community. Now more and more of his constituents are excited about more and improved services. Many are also enthusiastic about sharing their good fortune from Kap Jun’s exemplary leadership with the rest of San Pedro City.

Fighting corruption

Sometime in 2007, I wrote a long letter to then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez decrying the inaction of the anti-graft agency on the complaints I had filed against Boboy Syjuco. In an attempt to touch the conscience of Gutierrez, I ended the letter with words from Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa”, that I feared the cases “will just lie there, and they die there.”

To my great, and pleasant, surprise, none of the cases died. They did lay there quite long, but they refused to die. Four months ago, I learned from a senior graft investigator of the Ombudsman that all six complaints I had filed were being pursued. All were found to have factual and legal basis. They just needed to be reinforced with evidence.

I guess fighting corruption has become a vocation for me. I am committed to pursue a lifelong mission fighting corruption.

This is the reason I’ve been relentless in filing cases against City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. It’s not for any other reason than that I have vowed to fight corruption. It’s not about politics. It’s about putting a stop to greed and thievery in government.

For me, uncovering official wrongdoing is meaningless unless those involved are held accountable. In the past, the scandal of an expose is more than enough to deter public officials from corruption. Not anymore. Just like deadly virus, the corrupt have “mutated”, and have developed thick hide. So thick that even President Noynoy Aquino was so exasperated with them in his SONA last Monday: “saan po kayo kumukuha ng kapal na mukha?”

A good investigative journalist can expose dozens of cases involving graft and corruption these days and still be doing no good. Digging and exposing instances of corruption is good; but it has to lead to prosecutions and convictions.

This is the credo I’m now following as I pursue the cases of corruption I’ve filed before the Ombudsman. It’s not that I hate Mabilog personally. Really, it’s nothing personal. It’s my job as it has evolved. I learned from experience that corrupt officials grow bolder and bolder with each instance of graft. They gain more courage to test the limits of their ability to fleece public funds from the treasury.

I feel encouraged about how the Syjuco cases have turned out. Six cases are humming in the beehive of the Ombudsman as investigators track down the leads I’ve laid down and gather more evidence.  I am determined to pursue the Mabilog cases with the same intensity, or even more.

The experience I’ve had with Syjuco has taught me valuable lessons. It’s a good thing I worked in the capitol and became a member of the Bids and Awards Committee. Now I have an excellent understanding of the mechanisms for government procurement. It became easier for me to spot the irregularities.

This can be a thankless job. A lonely one, too. But I feel I owe it to the people to do everything to safeguard their welfare. The poverty in the country has worsened because of corruption. The book, “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”, established the connection between poverty and corruption.

President Aquino is right: we have to eradicate corruption if we want to lift the poor from the bowels of poverty. In my own little way, I’ll help him achieve that goal. I don’t need him to recognize me. At this time, all I’m asking from him is that he doesn’t protect the corrupt the way the previous administration did.

Watchdog slams corruption in Dungon Bridge project

It was bad enough that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) demolished the Dungon Bridge even though its structural condition was still good for the overpriced cost of P36 million. What made it worse was that the “matuwid na daan” government of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III spent an additional P17 million to “widen” it into a four-lane bridge when modern technology could do the job at a cheaper cost.

Rick B. Ramos, executive director of the Citizens Infrastructure  Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch), said there are several existing bridge projects in the country that utilized the metal plate connector technology to increase the vehicle handling capacity from two- to four-lanes. Among these is the Soro Soro Bridge in Binan, Laguna which was also implemented by the DPWH.

 

The Dungon Bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic two months ago after a public uproar over its delayed completion. When Ilonggos started using it again, they were aghast to discover that the four-lane design that cost them P53 million all in all had not been completed. The roadway on the bridge remained two lanes, with their money already down the drain.

The Dungon Bridge project was pushed by Iloilo City Representative Jerry P. Trenas with help from Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The money for the project came from “savings” of the DPWH, unexpended funds that were scooped from several completed projects to raise a total of P53 million. It was also Drilon who allocated the P65 million to buy the P7 million San Isidro relocation site for the urban poor.

Ramos said the P31.4 million, which later rose to P36 million, for the original contract of the Dungon Bridge project was excessive by itself. He reiterated that the bridge was still in good condition, and it would have been enough for DPWH to reinforce its columns, girders and abutments for more secure structure. But Ramos disclosed that a two-lane bridge project in Negros Occidental completed only last April cost only P21 million. Its length is almost the same as Dungon Bridge.

Ramos had written to DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, who is always being praised as the paragon of transparency and honesty, about the Dungon Bridge last August 13. But his complaint has been ignored. Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco wrote about the Dungon Bridge on Sept. 3 based on the Ramos letter. Singson never bothered to respond to him. In a Tweet on Wednesday, @boochanco said Singson has adopted a “deadma”, or indifference, stance towards criticism like this.

Politics, crime, corruption rolled into one

It is a done deal: The Liberal Party of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is forging a coalition with the Nacionalista Party of Senator Manny Villar and the Nationalist People’s Coalition of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco as it prepares for the 2013 national and local elections.

At first glance, there is nothing unusual about it. In the Philippine setting, political parties are treated lightly,  more of labels to indicate the current affiliation of the country’s political figures than a firm commitment to a set of party platform and core values.

It has been this way since the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos abolished the two-party system of the past with the declaration of martial law in 1972 and institutionalization of the one-party system a few years afterwards. When democracy was restored in 1986, the political party system was thrown into mayhem.

But I am appalled that the Liberal Party, to which I still belong, would seek to strengthen itself at the expense of the principles it espouses. A little over two years ago, the Liberal Party castigated then NP standard bearer Manny Villar for the criminal conversions of irrigated ricelands for development as subdivisions. The LP vowed to make Villar answer for his sins against the nation, as his property development schemes shrunk the productivity of our agricultural sector, particularly for the staple crop, rice.

Indeed, memories fade rapidly under our democratic system, and accountability will soon become a forgotten principle.

In Iloilo City, the two top elected officials are mired in corruption scandals, and still, they were welcomed with wide open arms by the Liberal Party after faithfully bowing to the Lakas/NUCD of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It’s as if the stain of corruption can just easily be wiped clean with a drop of dishwashing soap.

This is the politics that is putting down the nation under its own weight. We can’t pursue reform seriously, because our leaders choose convenience over principles. The reality of the times? Maybe. But it is one that is cause for frustration for many Filipinos.

We’ve seen the consequences of this corrupt system with the floods that hit many parts of the country this past week. It uncovered the neglect of our leadership in looking after pressing issues as it sought to achieve better political footholds. It shows that the “matuwid na daan” advocacy of President Aquino is nothing but lip service.