The return of the Pearl

SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto P. Maceda, Jr.

Air-conditioned bathrooms in public wet markets. Free use of dialysis, CT scan and MRI machines in public hospitals. Policemen’s allowances paid on time. Regular clearing operations of street vendors, illegally parked vehicles and colorum bus terminals. DEBT FREE. Seriously? Yes, this is happening and this is just the tip. No, this is not alternate reality. This is the City of Manila.

The slogan from before was “Where Manila goes, the Nation goes.” As Capital city, Manila was the showcase of the Philippines to the world. Imperial Manila they would call it – up to this day. Every other local government unit was a suburb.

I’ll make it everywhere. But Manila’s success became its downfall. As promised land, everyone wanted to make it there. Not all could. And, as the pilgrims continued to pour into every crack and crevice leading the City inexorably from light to blight, the “suburbs” made the most of the unrealized opportunities.

It became so bad that in the DILG Competitiveness index for 2013, out of 38 Highly urbanized and Independent Component Cities, Manila plunged to 36th! The suburbs, notably Makati, dominated rankings for years.

No. 1 again. Which makes the City’s return to form doubly impressive. In 2015, the National Competitiveness Council voted Manila as No. 1 most competitive City using “indicators grouped into three equally weighted pillars: Economic Dynamism, Government Efficiency, and Infrastructure.” Again, Manila can aspire to be worthy of the title “Pearl of the Orient.”

This is a larger than life revival, engineered by a larger than life Chief Executive. Congratulations President Mayor Joseph E. Estrada and the City Council of Manila for this outstanding achievement.

Guess who? With the dismissal of Secretary Mike Sueno from the DILG and the rejection by the Commission on Appointments of DFA Secretary Jun Yasay’s nomination, we are now left with two of our most important cabinet portfolios unfilled. One is our face to the outside world, the other looks inward to our local communities.

The chatter on who is next to go is accompanied by the scuttlebutt on who will step us as substitutes for Sueno and Yasay. For DILG, aside from the eminently qualified Senator Bongbong Marcos, we are hearing the name of another Manong, House Majority leader Rodolfo Farinas. Manong Rudy is a stalwart member of the President’s administration coalition and would be a shoo-in if the 2019 Senate ticket were to be formed today. He is also a fine choice to head the Department given his extensive local government experience (like Sen. Marcos, a former Governor of Ilocos Norte) and his acknowledged brilliance as a lawyer (bar topnotcher from Ateneo Law) and lawmaker.

As for the Department of Foreign Affairs, the post is for Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to accept or refuse. Should he decline, for any reason, the names in the mix are: former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former House Speaker Jose de Venecia, both sensei in the martial arts of international relations. As is former President Fidel V. Ramos, if only he were 10 years younger. Personally, I would be delighted if former Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. were to finally bring his own red belt to join the Cabinet – this time at the helm of DFA.

Careful what you wish for. Justice Vicente Mendoza, Ret. has been a voice in the wilderness reminding the country that you might not get power diffused via federalism. Instead, we might see power consolidation at the regional level where it is easier to amass power than on the national level. In his customary manner, Justice Mendoza brings a touch of sobriety to the hysteria for this proposed solution. Inputs like these are what we need in order to better prepare us for the federalism debates to come.

Battlestar prophylactica. As a two time dengue survivor, news about dengue always blips on my radar. Last month, pharmacies made available over the counter the DOH approved dengue vaccine, dengvaxia. This is the same inoculation launched by the DOH-DepEd last year targeting up to one million Grade 4 students.

As there are now four dengue virus strains, I would have impaled myself on the syringe to protect from the balance of two strains out there. Unfortunately, the vaccine works only on people from 9 to 45 years of age. With 200,000 cases of dengue reported in 2016, its not a bad idea to consider protecting yourselves.

Father and Son. It was a poignant scene seeing Senator Jinggoy Estrada spending a few hours of liberty with the Estrada family last Wednesday. His stage number with his siblings electrified the giant venue. It was bittersweet as even though the furlough permitted the long separated Father and Son to be united for this milestone birthday, we knew that moment would be fleeting. Even so, all were happy for the pair and thankful to the Sandiganbayan for the humanitarian gesture.

2,179. The Universidad de Manila (UDM), fully funded local university of the City of Manila, graduated 2,179 students last April 12 at the PICC. Chairman of the UDM Board of Regents and principal benefactor, President Mayor Joseph E. Estrada, in his inspirational message to the graduates, noted that education that is given free can be at par with expensive private university education. The outstanding performance of UDM in professional board examinations, specially in Criminology, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Social Work and Engineering is the best proof.

Though a local university, UDM aspires for a global presence. With a pro-active Board of Regents headed by the highly respected William D. Dar (former Secretary of Agriculture) and, until her appointment to the Department of Education, the beloved Secretary Leonor M. Briones, the University will continue to make giant strides toward this vision. Just this March, we welcomed our newest Regent, the brilliant Justice Arturo D. Brion, newly retired from the High Court.

Graduates were spectacularly fortunate to have as commencement speakers the envy of other Universities: Secretary Briones and former Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr.

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