Thursday, September 26, 2019

Rep. Nava's hubris

"There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. 'Good pride' represents our dignity and self-respect. 'Bad pride' is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance."
--John C. Maxwell

By Alex P. Vidal

THERE
is only one explanation for the actuation of Guimaras Rep. Lucille Nava when she reportedly ripped Iloilo City Rep. Julienne "Jam-Jam" Baronda in a recent dinner meeting hosted by the House Visayan Bloc headed by rumored vice presidential wanna-be, Negros Rep. Albee Benetiz.
Hubris.
The Greeks call it as "excessive pride."
It's because of hubris why the gods punished Prometheus, who stole the fire and gave it to humanity as civilization, by bounding him on the mountain Caucasus.
Nava couldn't accept that neophyte Baronda beat her to the draw and gained the attention of their male colleagues by proposing a plan to file a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to look into the plight of passengers crossing Iloilo and Guimaras.
Passengers have been finding it hard to cross the Guimaras strait like they used to enjoy due to the rigid rules imposed by the Philippine Coast Guard after 31 passengers died when two pump boats capsized one after another on August 3, 2019.

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Nava, wife of former Guimaras Governor and Rep. Rahman, considered Baronda's plan as "interference", thus she reportedly gave the 40-year-old Iloilo City solon the dressing down when they were alone in one corner.
Nava must've felt Baronda had overshadowed her especially when their colleagues in the meeting seemed to have appreciated the way the fresh congresswoman was showing her concern for people crossing the Guimaras strait.
Nava must've felt she should be the rightful person to float the idea being the representative of Guimaras.
But did she realize that some of those regularly crossing Guimaras and Iloilo are also Baronda's constituents?
If Nava thinks Baronda's plan is meritorious, she should collaborate and support it, not to run berserk
Legislators are supposed to work jointly for the common good and welfare of the people and not to compete and pull down one another.
If it is true that Nava chided Baronda because of that flimsy issue, it's plain and simple bullying and conduct unbecoming.

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U.N. UPDATE: Mirrored classroom display highlights scale of massive education crisis
A non-profit dedicated to exposing the severity of the global education crisis has been inviting delegates to the UN General Assembly inside a tiny mirrored installation this week, to drive home the reality that around 260 million children are missing from classrooms around the world.
Beginning 22 September through the end of next week, the Infinity Classroom exhibition by non-profit, Theirworld, will sit in the UN Plaza, open to visitors. The mirrored room is filled with what appear to be an infinite number of empty school desks - representing the millions of children out of school every day.
The station is the centerpiece of Theirworld’s #WriteTheWrong campaign, geared at building awareness of the global crisis and mobilizing the political will and financial support that is needed to give every child a chance to achieve their potential.
Founder and Chair of the NGO, Sarah Brown, said on Thursday: “The world has the largest number of refugees and displaced people since the Second World War, half of whom are children”, speaking to UN News, on a panel for the UN’s annual discussion series, dubbed the SDG Media Zone.
“We owe them what we want for our kids - a safe place to learn. That’s why we’re calling on all countries and international institutions to make education a priority”, Ms. Brown said.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

SMC come lately

"Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent."
--David Rockwell

By Alex P. Vidal


LET'S make it clear: San Miguel Corporation (SMC) never categorically confirmed it would submit an "unsolicited proposal" to build the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge contrary to reports earlier.
It was Senator Franklin Drilon who asked SMC President Ramon S. Ang to submit the unsolicited proposal out of his frustrations that nothing has been heard of the project since the Duterte administration dangled the proposal three years ago.
Drilon and Ang met recently in Leganes, Iloilo during the groundbreaking for a new beer factory there where the Ilonggo senator made the appeal.
As a courtesy, Ang reportedly told Drilon he would look into the proposal.
To "look into" it was the most logical and proper answer for a straightforward and frank suggestion.
"Looking into", however, is different from "has agreed to submit" the unsolicited proposal.
Drilon and Ang obviously were trying to be courteous and nice to each other, and some reporters took their conversations seriously and, to compound the matter, quoted both gentlemen out of context in one way or the other.

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SMC can't just gate-crash in the Panay-Guimaras-Negros project which is being facilitated by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
If SMC is really interested, it can commence a different proposal probably after the first bridge has been finished (DPWH expects the project to be fully constructed in 2023).
That proposal should be for another bridge like one of the twin bridges now being enjoyed by the Cebuanos.
SMC can't squat on the same project already "started" by the DPWH.
Thus it's impossible for Ang to submit an unsolicited proposal for the same project in the same location when he is already aware of the existence of the one which is bruited to be part of the "Build, Build, Build" program of the Duterte administration.
If a project is initiated by a private sector it will have a different dimension and different mode of financial arrangements.

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U.N. UPDATE:
‘Childhood is changing, and so must we’.
Since its adoption 30 years ago, the milestone Convention of the Rights of the Child and its near universal membership has created “unprecedented international solidarity around children’s rights,'' the Secretary-General said at a commemorative event an UN Headquarters on September 25, 2019.
The Convention is the most widely-ratified international human rights accord in history; a landmark achievement which meant “for the first time, governments explicitly recognized that children have the same human rights as adults”, UN chief António Guterres said, adding that the document put in the spotlight the “specific additional rights that recognize their special status as dependents.”
The high-level meeting at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly was geared towards celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Rights of the Child, highlighting progress made in the advancement of healthy and sustainable livelihoods, and a call to action for Member States to strengthen their commitments to the cause while recognizing new challenges.
To date, 196 countries have ratified the convention, with the exception of the United States of America, which has nonetheless signaled its intention to ratify with its signature.
Government actions and inactions, the Secretary-General noted, “have a greater impact on children than on any other group in society.” He urged all UN Member States “to give it their full backing.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A game-changing SC verdict

“And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret. Concentrate your energy, thoughts and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged in. Having begun in one line, resolve to fight it out on that line; to lead in it. Adopt every improvement, have the best machinery and know the most about it.”
--Larry Page

By Alex P. Vidal

AFTER
a stunning 44-0-vote loss in the "Kangaroo Court" called the House Committee on Legislative Franchise on September 11, 2019, the Panay Electric Company (PECO) bounced back with news of a heavy victory in the Supreme Court (SC) decided on August 14, 2019.
SC's decision to shoot down MORE Power Electric Corp's (MORE Power) prayer for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction against the decision of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 declaring as "void" and "unconstitutional" provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11212, which granted Enrique Razon's power company the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City, was a victory more thrilling than the agony of the House committee on legislative franchise debacle.
It was like Rome, under consuls Paulius and Varro, which lost to Hannibal's army of Carthage in the Battle of Cannae, a major battle of the Second Punic War in Apulia in 216 BC, but scored big when it defeated Greece in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC.

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As long as franchise holder MORE Power can't provide its own assets to distribute electricity, nothing can prevent PECO to continue with its operations to serve the Ilonggo consumers even with absence of a franchise, which expired on January 18, 2019.
PECO is empowered by law and was given the authority by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to ensure uninterrupted electric service amid the legal furor.
Congress gave PECO’s rival, MORE Power, the authority through a 25-year franchise to distribute power in the city through RA 11212.
The caveat is Razon's company must secure its own facilities in order to run a power business instead of taking over through an expropriation PECO's assets.
PECO's "defeat" in the House Committee on Legislative Franchise can still be transformed into "victory" if PECO can eventually secure a fresh franchise in its next attempt (a bill can be filed a year after the recent denial, according to the law), while the Supreme Court setback for MORE Power could be the game changer that would finally provide light at the end of the tunnel for the lingering issue.

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U.N. UPDATE: NO TO HATE SPEECH
. In the fast-growing digital age, hate speech can represent “a critical obstacle for LGBTI people” using online platforms, the UN’s top rights official told participants at a high-level segment on the matter on September 24.
“Unfortunately digital technologies have provided additional avenues for hate speech", UN rights chief, Michele Bachelet, told participants, which included organizers from the LGBTI Core Group, Ministers, senior officials, and members of the media.
The high-level discussion at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, aimed to address how different stakeholders can contribute to ending hate speech against LGBTI people on social media platforms and in traditional media, as well as ensure support for victims, when hateful words turn to violence.
The meeting stirred conversation around the right to free speech versus the license to hate, for which Ms.Bachelet offered an objective definition:
“Hate speech is any kind of communication, in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language, with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are”, she said, quoting the UN’s framework and plan of action for stamping out hate speech, introduced in June of this year.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, September 23, 2019

City Hall wrong to pin down ‘enemies’

“Identity politics preaches a splintering of one large, collaborative group into competing vindictive ones - resulting in new, angry tribes whose central thesis is to not cooperate.”
--Greg Gutfeld

By Alex P. Vidal


IT is not healthy for city hall or any local government unit to start its administration by running after employees or department heads who did not support the current mayor or governor in the previous elections.
It’s a waste of time and resources; it’s anticlimactic and smacks of vindictiveness.
Like what is happening in Iloilo City today.
It is embarrassing that the first case Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas had to face since he assumed as city mayor two months ago came from a city hall employee, not from big time tax evaders or giant firms that have fought back after being ribbed for violating the city ordinances.
Instead of Goliath versus Goliath, what the Ilonggos are seeing in the front seats is a Goliath trying to eviscerate David, who fights back not for political survival but for his livelihood.

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The case, which hogged headlines, came from an employee reassigned from his original post to a dumpsite in Mandurriao district supposedly for having been identified as a political supporter of the previous mayor.
If the minions of Treñas or the city mayor himself are not embarrassed about this, I don’t know how they handle and absorb the news about this petty squabble that has spread around the world.
It’s like an intra-family quarrel that went out of control and the public is watching, hearing and reading eerie stories that should’ve been discussed and settled in the family’s living room.
Sometimes it depends on what kind of advisers that surround the city mayor; it depends on what kind of advice they give the big boss on how to deal with people who have been identified with the defeated Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and are still working at city hall.
It appears that some of them have more ax to grind against some people inside the city hall than the mayor himself.
Instead of running after the perceived political decoys, they should run after the crooks and rascals. File cases against the thieves, the tax cheats, the fixers and the ten percenters.

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Mayor Treñas is not a vindictive type of leader.
I should know. He is one of the few Ilonggo leaders who don’t harass critical reporters.
His mind as a public servant isn’t barriotic.
I have not heard Treñas file a libel case against any journalist, but I know he was one of the most maligned elected officials even when he was still a city councilor.
Some of those not familiar with his management style mistook him as “suplado” (snob) maybe because he is frank and does not hide his feelings in public.
Who among the tormented candidates in the previous elections have the courage and honesty to cry literally and empty his emotions “live” on air?
Hours after it became crystal-clear he had won the bitter and nightmarish elections in May, he went on air and cried while being interviewed by Bombo Radyo anchorman Don Dolido.
I can’t speak the same for others, the mayor’s subalterns who are now calling some of the major shots inside the city mayor’s office.
By the way, a throwback in 1989: Mayor Treñas should be careful not to commit the same mistake made by then Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, who also allegedly harassed city health officer Dr. Ortigoza weeks after he assumed as city mayor.
Ortigoza sued Ganzon and enemies of the hard-hitting former senator, led by then local government secretary Luis Santos, used the Oritgoza brouhaha to slap Ganzon with a preventive suspension. And the rest was history.
It was Karl Marx who once said that “history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

How about a ‘Karay-a’ in the U.N.

“Such is the endless dilemma of dialect. Not every reader will ever agree with the way that I handle it, no matter how hard I work to keep everything readable. But again it's that balance I have to maintain between keeping it easy and keeping it real, and I know that I'll never please everyone.”
--Susanna Kearsley

By Alex P. Vidal


I WOULD be in the United Nations (U.N.) headquarters in New York City when the 74th Annual United Nations General Assembly opened officially morning on September 23, 2019.
I’d be there as a journalist from the South East Asia or “the Third World.”
My primary duty is to listen to the speeches of state leaders and collect materials for my references and future articles.
I have no major role except to gather important facts and share the stories to my blog and newspaper readers.
More importantly, I’d help chronicle this great event, which unfolded this week against a backdrop of crises--from the warming planet to economic uncertainty to flaring conflicts that threaten to further entangle the United States in the volatile Middle East.
There is a myriad of global issues that don’t directly involve my country, the Philippines, such as trade wars, migration, energy supplies, climate change and the eradication of poverty underpin the basic themes of the 193-member General Assembly agenda, but, in one way or the other, will affect how the Filipinos will live and interact with the rest of the world in the next 10 years and beyond.

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Meanwhile, if I were the Philippines’ representative in the United Nations (U.N.), I would speak in Kinaray-a or Karay-a, my second local dialect (the first is Hiligaynon).
It would be the job of the U.N. interpreters to translate my words; they have been translating in English some of the most grotesque and tongue-twister languages for decades.
Some of the most controversial state leaders in history who had spoken in the U.N. General Assembly didn’t deliver their speeches in English, yet the world listened.
Kinaray-a is one of the most colorful dialects in the world.
The Kinaray-a inhabit the coastal areas and riversides of western Panay, and interior of Panay island in the Western Visayas Region; and certain villages in Mindanao, according to the Ethnic Groups of the Philippines.
They are reportedly concentrated in the provinces of Antique and Iloilo. Hiligaynon, the language of the Ilonggos, was derived from the Kinaray-a language.
The Kinaray-a are striving to preserve their traditions, it added.
They have reportedly created their own kind of music called OKM (Original Kinaray-a Music), reminiscent of their melodic composos (narrative verses).
Their theme song, “Antique, Banwa nga Hamili,” expresses their love for their home, their banwa--the birthplace of a hardworking, brave group of people, added the Ethnic Groups of the Philippines.
In the 1940s, many Kinaray-a reportedly left for Mindanao, especially those without good farmlands in Panay, lured by the promise of bountiful fertile lands. Being industrious, those who settled in Mindanao established well-heeled communities and achieved great prosperity with their lands.
Regrettably, tension has been reportedly growing between the Kinaray-a and neighboring Muslim groups; who feel their lands have been unfairly taken by the Kinaray-a.
It’s about time the U.N. heard the Kinaray-a in its august halls.

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Among the issues that concern our Asian region during the U.N. General Assembly is how to resolve the conflict between Japan and South Korea, America’s key Asian allies.
Their leaders are reportedly not on speaking terms.
A protracted feud between Japan and South Korea, rooted in the legacy of Japan’s wartime occupation, has led to downgraded trade relations and the end of an intelligence-sharing agreement, reported the New York Times.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are not expected to meet with each other.
Whether Mr. Trump can induce them into a three-way conversation remains unclear. And an objective shared by all three--North Korea’s nuclear disarmament--may see little or no progress.
While Mr. Moon is expected to urge Mr. Trump to renew his push for diplomacy with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, no senior North Korean official plans to attend the General Assembly.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

'Pork' and the MORE problem

“In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.”
--Walt Whitman

By Alex P. Vidal


PANAY Electric Company (PECO)’s refusal to sell its assets to rival, MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), is a clear sign that there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel in as far as the controversy whether PECO should be allowed to stay and continue serving the Ilonggos alongside with MORE Power, or the latter should call the shots exclusively for power distribution in Iloilo City and eradicate PECO is concerned.
Despite the recent shutout “win” for MORE Power when the House Committee on Franchises’ 44 members shut the door on the proposed bill granting a new franchise to PECO filed by a partyl-list solon, the situation remains frosty.
There is no clear victory with finality in sight yet for neither party.
In fact, MORE problem and MORE confusion have become the order of the day.
PECO is still fighting back; it’s exhausting all the available legal remedies to survive the Armageddon.
Like Israel, which is under constant threat of annihilation from surrounding Arab and Muslim countries, PECO is apparently prepared to release all its might in order to survive.

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PECO Corporate Communications Officer Mikel Afzelius has stood by his words that any other power distributor has “every right to put up its own facilities and run a power distribution business.”
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 37’s August 14, 2091 ruling granting MORE Power a writ of possession to take over PECO’s assets is still being contested in the appellate court.
MORE problem and MORE confusion means MORE litigation, (there will be) MORE attempts for PECO to get a legitimate franchise in the future (this can de done a year after the first rejection by the House Committee on Franchises, according to the law).
PECO’s battlecry doesn’t make them a contrabida in the eyes of the public.
It’s healthy, democratic, fair, and reasonable.
It only wants to co-exist with MORE Power; PECO doesn’t pretend to be a pot calling the kettle black.
The more the merrier, as the saying goes.
It does not agitate to wrest the franchise away from MORE Power, which has already secured its own in the bag.
PECO wants a separate slice of the pizza, not the entire plate.

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ILOILO’s decision to ban entry of live hogs and pork-related products from areas in Luzon and countries affected by African Swine Fever (ASF) is timely as it will help minimize if not outright prevent the spread of ASF in the city and province.
Experts in the United States have identified the biggest challenges facing the pork industry.
These are foreign animal diseases, the future of trade, and consumers’ fear of science.
The public’s fear and/or misunderstanding of science can and will reportedly lead to freedom-to-operate issues for pork producers.
It can reportedly impact decisions that policy-makers make; it impacts the decisions producers make on their farms--their animal health choices, their facilities-management choices--all of those things.
The culinary name for the flesh of a domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus), pork is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved; it is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC.
Curing extends the shelf life of the pork products and examples of the preserved pork are ham, smoked pork, gammon, bacon and sausage. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, many from pork.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Port of Iloilo isn't Shanghai

"Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent."
--David Rockwell

By Alex P. Vidal


LET'S not be too excited to believe hook, line, and sinker that the Port of Iloilo in Loboc, Bo. Obrero district in Iloilo City, can be instantly transformed into a major international gateway once the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) has finished infusing some P8.7 billion for its development program.
It's not bad to dream big and wish for the magnificence, but even in day dreaming, there's a limit and logical considerations.
We all, of course, welcome any development, expansion, or whatever upgrading program not just for the Port of Iloilo, but also for other major public infrastructures in Western Visayas, as well as in the entire archipelago.
We commend private sector initiatives like the one being proposed by the ICTSI, owned by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr., and exhort the government to provide incentives for those wishing to improve major public facilities that can help uplift the lives of the people and create major inroads in the local economy.
But, wait a minute.

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While we push for gargantuan developments, we must be realistic also with our expectations.
The proposed ICTSI project, now under review by the Philippine Port Authority (PPA), is eyeing "four development phases" that includes reportedly the "installing of ship-to-shore gantry cranes" and the "continuous upgrading of the yard capacity based on demand."
Part of ICTSI's plan is reportedly to build a cruise ship terminal that would cater to domestic and international tourists.
The project is expected to spur trade given that Iloilo is reportedly being positioned as a major exporter of agricultural goods once the Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project is completed in 2022 as emphasized recently by Senator Franklin Drilon, who supported the ICTSI project.
How plausible can a cruise ship terminal be integrated in a busy seaport that serves international shipping handling sugar and fertilizer shipments for international market?

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Which part of the port area's 20.8 hectares will the cruise ship terminal be built without any prejudice to a number of shipping companies like Lorenzo Shipping Corporation, 2GO, Amigo Shipping Company, New Panay Shipping Company, Sulpicio Lines, and Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc that are also using the Port of Iloilo?
The Port of Iloilo is located adjacent a mammoth residential colony and a small industrial district. How will they be affected by the ICTSI's project?
Port of Iloilo, a natural artificial type of harbor, can't be compared yet to the world's busiest and largest seaports like the Port of Shanghai, a deep-water seaport/riverport and the biggest port in the world based on cargo throughput that handled 744 million tonnes of cargo in 2012, including 32.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers.
Port of Iloilo, which handles 491.7 million tonnes annually, can't be compared yet to the nearby Port of Singapore, which handled 537.6 million tonnes of cargo in 2012, its container throughput has reportedly crossed the 30 million TEUs mark for the first time in 2012.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

How money will ruin us

“A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.”
--Jonathan Swift

By Alex P. Vidal


MONEY isn't evil per se, or possession of money is not really evil, we have been told.
The want to have money for specific reasons and purposes actually can’t and should not be considered as evil.
It’s the excessive love for money, or its excessive possession for excessive, irrational and wicked purposes that should be considered as the root of all evil.
Everybody is seeking for money, but it is the seeking that counts, as money is not always a blessing when it comes.
In Everyday Wisdom, Dr. Frank Crane narrated a story about a man who won $20,000 for suggesting the name “Liberty” to a popular magazine.
“He is now charged by his wife with the abandonment of her and his four children,” explained Crane.

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The first thing the man did with his prize money, his wife claimed, was to buy a six-cylinder touring car and a quart of liquor.
She also said that he kept paying $5, $10 and $15 tips to taxicab chauffeurs and bootleggers.
“Before he won that prize we were in pretty poor circumstances,” said his wife. “We were in debt, but at least we were happy.”
The question in life is not only who is going to receive the prizes, but what people are going to do with them.
Crane warned that winning a beauty prize may mean moral and spiritual ruin to the successful contestant. Beauty is of no advantage unless used beautifully.
“Many a man has found it harder work to take care of his money when he got it than to get it in the first place,” observed Crane. “If he makes a large amount of money he finds all society arrayed against him. Beggars assail him, tradesmen overcharge him, and the government taxes him. He finds that the possession of money renders him a marked man.”
A man with a large fortune is in one respect like Cain, for every man’s hand is again him, according to Crane.

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So there are two sides to success.
It is a question whether success is more valuable as a goal to be attained than it is as a goal which has been attained.
Those on the way up to it get plenty of advice and sympathy from others. Those who have arrived do not receive much sympathy.
“It takes considerable training to be able to take care of money,” counseled Crane. “And often people who are suddenly raised to affluence do not know what to do with their possessions.”
Certainly if receiving a large sum of money induces a man to take up extravagant and bad habits and to desert his wife and children it is a bad thing for him.
The same thing is true with the possession of any talent. A man may be a great violinist, a great pianist, or a great speaker, and his success may ruin him as a man.
It is very difficult for anyone who is extraordinarily endowed in any way, either in money or talent, to keep his faculties in balance.
Crane warned: “The best condition for a man is one of struggle and uncertainty. While he is struggling he is automatically kept normal and in check. That the majority of the human race is not on Easy Street is a good thing for the race.”
If every man were a millionaire the world would speedily go to the devil.
It is the fact that most people need to worry and struggle along with obstacles that keep the world sound and sane.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Pimentel’s attack against PECO is inappropriate

“Fairness is not an attitude. It's a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.”
--Brit Hume

By Alex P. Vidal


IF they continue to treat the Panay Electric Company (PECO) like one of those Bilibid heinous crime inmates scandalously released by Faeldon and his corrupt cohorts, Ilonggos might be emboldened to rally behind the beleaguered power firm owned by the Cacho family.
They should refrain from treating PECO like a useless and hardened criminal.
PECO is a legitimate corporation manned by professionals with technical skills and managerial expertise on power distribution on a mammoth scale.
It’s not a sorority group or a fraternity organization that can just be disbanded easily.
Even if it is being stripped of its dignity and subjected to all kinds of insults and humiliation, PECO has continued to hang on for its dear life.
PECO wants to stay or continue with its service to the Ilonggos under the principle of free competition; it doesn’t demand to be given a special treatment through a sole or exclusive franchise like it used to enjoy. It does not agitate to kill or eliminate a competitor.
And it appears that with the Court of Appeals as PECO’s next hope to provide them a lease of life, PECO is like a cat with nine lives, not just a palooka who succumbs without giving a good fight.

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After anti-PECO advocates elbowed, sucker punched and kneed PECO on the chin, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises joined the fray and kicked PECO while already grimacing on the ground.
This is the type of overkill that makes the Ilonggos unite; the type of persecution that will hurt the Ilonggos who love the underdogs regardless of the issues surrounding the tumult.
Bullying PECO should be the last thing its enemies should do.
And irresponsible statements coming from Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel would be the perfect recipe to swing sympathies in favor of the much-maligned PECO.
PECO’s franchise expired on Jan. 18, 2019. Instead of renewing it, Congress gave PECO’s rival, MORE Power, the authority to distribute power in the city through RA 11212.

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We can understand if Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda will speak against PECO since she is from Iloilo City; she fully understands the issue and is very much aware of the divided sentiments among the power consumers.
But Pimentel, who is from faraway Surigao del Sur in Mindanao, can’t say with absolute certainty about PECO’s alleged failure or lack of success in its nearly 100 years of serving the Ilonggos as the sole power distributor in Iloilo City 180 barangays.
“PECO has not been providing good service. Electricity distribution is not the same as other businesses like a gasoline station or sari-sari store. This is more of service to the public. You have the responsibility to protect consumers’ welfare. PECO failed,” Pimentel was quoted by local reports based on his recent interview over DyFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo.
“What we did was to protect the interest of the people. Hindi kami ang may gusto niyan. Ang may gusto niyan ang taongbayan. Gusto nila mas magandang serbisyo ng power company.”

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Listening to Pimental malign PECO is like listening to Limahong, a Chinese pirate and warlord who invaded the Philippines in 1574 and who never lived in Europe, denying “the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome.”
As a non-resident of Iloilo City, Pimentel’s remarks against PECO was uncalled for and conduct unbecoming.
As committee chair, the congressman from Mindanao isn’t supposed to take sides and pretend he speaks with full authority and knowledge on behalf of the consumers.
He should have taken the neutral ground and heard both sides of the coin in a fair and buttoned up hearing sans emotional and political distractions.
Grandstanding Pimental should apologize not only to PECO, but also to the Ilonggos for insulting their intelligence.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Did PECO die the way Rasputin was killed?

"There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy."
-Ambrose Bierce

By Alex P. Vidal


AFTER losing its franchise in January 2019, Panay Electric Company (PECO) refused to die like Grigori Rasputin, who was supposed to die immediately after being made to eat a cyanide-laced cake prepared by Prince Yussupov.
Rasputin survived.
The cyanide had no apparent effect.
Like Rasputin, the mystical adviser in the court of Czar Nicholas II in Russia, PECO "lived on" even after its certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also expired four months later in May 2019.
PECO "survived" and continued to operate by virtue of a transition after Congress passed Republic Act No. 11212 that gave rival firm MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) the franchise to distribute power in Iloilo City.

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The nephew of the Tsar and his cohorts couldn't kill Rasputin with one strike.
PECO had also survived after challenging RA 11212's validity and securing a favorable ruling from the Regional Trial Court in Mandaluyong City declaring portions of the law as illegal and unconstitutional.
Rasputin was only killed after being shot and beaten and then drowned in a frozen river.
Like Rasputin, PECO, gasping for breath, fought for its dear life through Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano, who filed HB 4101 on Aug 22, 2019 in a bid to grant PECO a fresh franchise.
Did PECO finally die on September 11, 2019 after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises unanimously struck down Paduano's bill seeking to grant PECO the franchise to distribute electricity for Ilonggo consumers?

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It was my fifth consecutive year last Wednesday, September 11, 2019, to join the Americans as they commemorated the horrible 9/11 World Trade Center twin towers attack that killed nearly 5,000 non-combatant individuals.
As observed by Time's Ian Bremmer, every 9/11 anniversary that passes gets both easier and harder.
Easier, because time numbs pain, even the most searing and awful kinds of pain. Harder, because with time comes perspective, and 18 years later, the shock and enormity of those despicable acts continue to stand as one of the most atrocious deeds humans have ever perpetrated against one another.
"The passing of time also makes it harder because we can see more clearly the disastrous chain the events of that day kicked off, how they led to war in Afghanistan and then to war in Iraq, both wars that the U.S. is currently still waging. It’s hard to say that the world is safer place to live as a result of those wars. What we can say is that these wars have cost the U.S. plenty; trillions of dollars have been spent, thousands of lives have been lost, and U.S. global leadership has been forever tarnished, both in the eyes of those living in the U.S. and in the eyes of those living outside it," observed Bremmer.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Bridge project's identity crisis

"Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it."
--Jules Renar

By Alex P. Vidal


TO whom will the Ilonggos listen and believe?
The question whether the proposed 14-kilometer Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge project will push through has become a case of "too many cooks will spoil the broth."
Since 2016 when President Duterte assumed office, there has been multitudes of pronouncements that the construction of the multi-billion project, supposedly included under the administration's "Build, Build, Build" program, would start in 2017.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), and the Department of Budget are the three key government agencies involved in the project.
The project will never be materialized without the triumvirate's blessings and coordination.

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The problem is there has been no particular agency tasked primarily to give the public updates on what is going on.
There were cases when DPWH said one thing, and the Neda said another thing.
No coordination; everyone is his own boss and authority when it comes to giving the public a bird's eye view about the project.
The identity crisis has exacerbated the delays since nobody is explaining what; no one is accountable when it comes to total disclosure of the project's status.
Everyone has turned into a guessing game; everyone has become skeptical and confused.
From 2017 until the third quarter of 2019, all the three agencies, particularly the DPWH and Neda, could report, so far, was that the project "is still undergoing a feasibility study" financed by the Chinese Government.
Since nothing has happened in as far as initial start of public works are concerned, so many politicians and organizations have joined the fray in calling for its construction soon.

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Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, wooing the votes of Guimarasnons in the recent polls, promised to "push" for the bridge construction "soon."
Iloilo Governor Arthur "Toto" Defensor Jr. wished the bridge project was included in President Duterte's most recent State of the Nation Address (Sona), which never happened.
Senator Franklin Drilon told fellow Ilonggos during the turnover of the newly-restored University of the Philippines (UPV) main building at the UPV Iloilo City campus last month that "it's high time" the bridge was constructed.
The senator from Molo said he has talked with DPWH Secretary Mark Villar to commence the construction soon.
Drilon declared: “There is a feasibility study funded by China, one year of feasibility study which started this January and supposed to be completed by the end of the year. We do not know what exactly the status is but we do hope that this feasibility study is finished on time so that the construction can commence.”

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Most recently, the Provincial Board Members League (PBML) in Western Visayas, headed by Domingo Oso, has called for the construction of the bridge, estimated to cost P14 billion, that would connect the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros Occidental.
More politicians and organizations in Panay and Negros are expected to release their own versions of "requesting the DPWH..." soon even as 2022, the year of the supposed completion of all the projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program, is near.
If these "requests" and "expectations" from politicians and organizations continue to pour desperately, this means the project doesn't have any specific or concrete calendar yet to commence.
If the government is hell-bent to start the construction of the project, there's no need for the likes of Drilon to remind the agencies concerned; there's no need for organizations like the PBML to "push" for the bridge's construction.

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Last month, Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo, chairperson of the DPWH's "Build, Build' Build" Committee, said the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge project's feasibility study "is expected to be completed within this year."
The first phase of the proposed project is the Panay-Guimaras Bridge, which will reportedly start in Leganes, Iloilo and will end in Buenavista, Guimaras while the second phase is the Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge, which will reportedly start in San Lorenzo, Guimaras and will end in Pulupandan, Negros Occidental.
The Provincial Development Council (PDC) of Negros Occidental endorsed the conduct of the feasibility study for the project to the Provincial Board and the Regional Development Council (RDC-6) in June this year.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Corporate execs take 'token' jobs for Ilonggos

"The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
--Theodore Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal


THE names of Dr. Rogelio Florete and Salvador Sarabia Jr. are associated with the corporate world; each holding executive positions in their respective business empires.
Florete is a media and jewelry mogul, while Sarabia is a former tourism undersecretary under the Arroyo administration whose family made a name in the optical and hotel industry.
They can steer the wheels and expand their business domains without having to belabor themselves in other areas outside the parameters of their corporate interests.
But they accepted the challenge from Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo "Jerry" Treñas to take an active role in the management of the city's tourism and business affairs without any emolument in return worth their time and expertise.
Florete is now the head of the Iloilo City Festivals Foundation, Inc. (ICFFI), a newly-formed foundation that will handle the staging of all festivals in the city, primarily the Dinagyang Festival.
Florete's new role outside his private corporate office requires him to mingle and have a tete-a-tete with ordinary people, something he rarely does in the past as a security-conscious and very private person.

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As in charge of the Dinagyang Festival's publicity committee, Florete recently met the Iloilo press together with Iloilo City Tourism Officer Junniel Divinagracia and publicty assistant Florence Hibionada.
Florete went down from the totem pole of his corporate cocoon to solicit the suggestions of media people on how to ensure the successful coverage of next year's brand-new edition of Dinagyang Festival.
Florete is supported by the foundation's interim officers who are also mostly corporate geniuses in their own right: Felipe Uygongco as vice chairperson; Atty. Jobert Peñaflorida as president, Dr. Ronald Raymond Sebastian as vice president, Roland Uy as treasurer, and Judgee Peña as public relations officer.
The gathering of stars in the business sector to help spruce up the city's festivals and other tourism programs is a major pull upward for the new City Hall administration.

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As the new director Iloilo City's MICE or meetings, incentives, travel, conferences, conventions, exhibitions, and events, Sarabia recently hogged headlines when he officially announced the major changes in next year's Dinagyang Festival.
Under the new festival, where Kasadyahan will be separated from the Dinagyang, revelers can now join in the "sadsad" merrymaking, according to Sarabia.
“It will be more vibrant because Dinagyang will now be more experiential, there will be a twist, more people involvement,” Sarabia, who is Treñas' executive assistant, explained.
The foundation headed by Florete will partner with the city government to handle the Dinagyang and Sarabia suggested that the celebration will be joined by private companies, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders that will form their own tribes.
Under the new plans, the street dancing will start at the Provincial Capitol and will end with a mass or any religious event at the Plaza Libertad.
They held stakeholders' consultation in July, where they gathered feedback on how the public would like to see next year’s Dinagyang Festival set on January 25-26.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

US Open, my neighbor in Queens

"When you do something best in life, you don't really want to give that up and for me it's tennis."
--Roger Federer

By Alex P. Vidal


I'M lucky to live four train stations away from the Flushing Meadows in Corona Park, Queens where the US Open is held each year from August 26 to September 8.
I can watch the matches if I am vacant.
The actual matches are actually held on outdoor hard courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
I can reach the place either by taking a state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 7 Train for $2.75, or by walking from the Elmhurst neighborhood for about 20 minutes.
But I'm not so lucky when I take the 7 Train in an elevated railway going to Flushing, a large commercial and retail area and the fourth largest central business district in New York City.
I'm always on standing position.
I can never take a seat until the train arrives in Mets/Willets Point Station, where a bulk of the passengers disembark for a short walk toward the iconic tennis stadium.
Ditto when I report for work in the opposite side going to the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Many fans billeted in midtown Manhattan hotels reach the stadium either by taking the 7 Train from subway stations in the Times Square and Grand Central, or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from the Penn Station.
Even while standing, the train is so full I can easily bump with my body a fellow passenger or vice versa when the train suddenly stops.
All seats in the 11-car New York City Subway train are always occupied mostly by US Open staff and tennis fans who come from the different states and countries.
The US Open, a hard court tennis tournament, is perhaps one of the biggest sports attractions in the entire United States of America.
Now on its 139th edition, the 2019 US Open is an event run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is part of the 2019 ATP Tour and the 2019 WTA Tour calendars under the Grand Slam category.
The tournament consists of both men's and women's singles and doubles draws as well as a mixed doubles event.
There are also singles and doubles events for both boys and girls (players under 18), which are part of the Grade A category of tournaments. Additionally, there are singles and doubles wheelchair tennis events for men, women and quads.

-o0o-

Prize money at the US Open's grandest Slam is even greater as this year's edition offers record total player compensation, surpassing the $57 million mark for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Both the men’s and women’s singles champions will receive a record payday of $3,850,000, while the men’s and women’s champion doubles teams will each receive $740,000--both totals also representing not just the richest in US Open history, but also in the history of Grand Slam tournaments.
That record total is reportedly an eight percent increase over 2018 total compensation, with payouts for each round of the 2019 US Open being the highest in the history of the sport’s four majors.
Importantly, significant increases in prize money for the early rounds have been realized in recent years, with main-draw prize money for the US Open’s first round increasing 47 percent over just the last four years. Players who lose in the second round of the 2019 US Open will each receive $100,000--which was the total amount of player compensation at the very first US Open in 1968.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Are Roberta Cokin's killers still there?

"The claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact: For the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted and jailed."
--Tom Cotton

By Alex P. Vidal


IN many sensational crimes in the 70's, 80's and even in the 90's, some of the perpetrators were inmates allowed by corrupt jailers to go out for the "special assignment."
After committing the crimes, the inmates surreptitiously returned inside the jail like nothing has happened.
This made the crimes almost perfect; the chicanery have puzzled the investigators.
Either the corrupt jailers were the masterminds themselves if the hit was a robbery, or they were bribed by syndicates to kill their rivals.
Some of these true cases have been immortalized in the movies.
Some of the jails or "rehabilitation centers" in the Philippines are not only managed by corrupt and incompetent officials, they are also lairs of hired killers pampered and directed by scoundrels, who are paid by the taxpayers to secure and manage our prison system.

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According to stories we have been monitoring since last week, some 1,914 heinous crimes prisoners have been given freedom by the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) because of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law or Republic Act No. 10592.
Because of this controversial law, rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez was nearly released last month, while some of the rapists and killers of the Chiong sisters have been freed.
We became curious because the identities of the 1,914 "ex-convicts" have not been known as of this writing; reports only mentioned that some of them were Chinese nationals convicted of drug trafficking.
Some of them were reportedly notorious kidnappers, crime kingpins, rapists, bank robbers, serial killers, among other inmates who were supposedly not eligible for release if GCTA wasn't misinterpreted.
Because of the hullabaloo many Ilonggos have been asking the same question we asked here last week: were the kidnappers and killers of Roberta "Obing" Cokin among those 1,914 free men and women?

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The Cokin case was the most celebrated case to have hit Western Visayas in the 90s.
Unless the BuCor will release the names of the 1,914 soon, we will never know of ex-Maj. Rolando Maclang, his paramour Juliet Haresco, ex-Airman Second Class Charlito Domingo, Ronaldo Porquez, and bagman John Mamarion are still in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Their conviction for the kidnap-murder of Cokin, 70, was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2003.
They were originally meted with death penalty, but then President Arroyo commuted the sentences of all death row convicts to life imprisonment even before death penalty was abolished.
Cokin was kidnapped in Bacolod City on July 15, 1995.
The kidnappers had initially demanded P2 million in ransom, but the National Bureau of Investigation reportedly bungled the payoff.
Cokin's decomposing body was found in Brgy. Palaypay, Anilao, Iloilo in August 1995.

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We also remember Ricky Braga, convicted of killing US Peace Corps volunteer Robert John Bock and nine Ilonggos on August 12, 1998 in Sara, Iloilo.
Ricky and his cousin Feliciano Braga, Ernesto Brito have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ricky's sister, Louella, and her husband, Roy Donesa, were given up to 10 years' imprisonment for helping Ricky hide after the multiple murders.
Aside from Bock, others killed were Julioceto Aspera, Warlito Avanturado, Francisco Castroverde, Jose Garcia Jr., Elvis Lamsin, Robert Pantin, Jonathan Sotic, Eduardo Sortigoza, and his pregnant wife Angela.
The victims were all gunned down as their vehicles passed through a village in Sara, about 110 kilometers north of Iloilo City.
If they were among those freed by the BuCor, nobody can tell.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Self)

Don't forget to love yourself.
--SOREN KIERKEGAARD :

It's understandable if sometimes we "forget" to pay our debt. No borrower in this universe has a perfect memory when it comes to money matters. But if we forget to regularly eat, take a bath, exercise, make love, sleep on time, brush our teeth, comb our hair and learn, it's unforgivable, incredible and terrible!
--ALEX P. VIDAL