Frenemies

SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto P. Maceda, Jr.

In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos invited ma0verick Philippine Statesman, Senator Arturo Tolentino to run as his Vice President. The intent was to present the public with a balanced ticket. The brilliant Manila Senator was widely respected not just for his brains but for his independent will. Why go for the opposition Aquino–Laurel when Marcos had his own in-house oppositionist in the great Tolentino?

The main utility of an opposition is to question government, to provide constructive criticism and to make sure that accountable officials do not believe themselves infallible. President Cory, rest her soul, once referred to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as langaw. Meant to be a put down, the insult was actually an affirmation of how effective Manong Johnny was as he actually got under the President’s skin in fiscalizing her government.

Allowing opposition in-house will always be an invaluable management tool for the confident leader. As the Corleone family nugget goes: keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

With friends like these, who needs enemies. The relentless anti Duterte tirades of Senators Leila de Lima, Sonny Trillanes and Cong. Gary Alejano do not seem to be resonating with the populace. But who needs their criticisms catapulted in from without when the President’s own men can’t seem to agree on matters within?

We know about the several high profile skirmishes among his cabinet. First, we had Sonny Dominguez vs. Gina Lopez. This was no mere trifling disagreement but a major clash between environmental and mining policies. We’ve also read about the Jun Evasco vs Jason Aquino dispute on the sensitive rice importation question. And now, Aguirre vs Morales.

When most is not most. The latest clash between the Secretary of Justice and the Ombudsman has to do with the Department of Justice plan to discharge Janet Napoles to turn state witness in the PDAF plunder cases. The Ombudsman has roundly and publicly rejected this.

This is not the first time that these two high officials have disagreed. Previously, they squared off in a land dispute involving the Lipa City Mayor. Then, of course, came Sec. Aguirre thinking aloud on why the Ombudsman absolved Pres. Benigno Aquino III in the Mamasapano SAF-44 massacre. 

Delayed but not denied. This administration’s policy, as expressed through Secretary of Justice, is to hold accountable those who ended up escaping scrutiny in the past. Sec. Aguirre is, rightfully, intent on pursuing leads. He has just reignited the national debate on the fundamental fairness of the impeachment trial against the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. The Secretary intends to investigate the PDAF based voting incentives that he believes were offered. This places him, once again, on a collision course with one of the biggest players of the Corona impeachment. Hello, again, Madame Conchita.

Its interesting to see how the unpredictable President positions himself in these clashes of his titans. He could have fought for Gina but he decided to respect the prerogatives of the Commission on Appointments (though not without his own critical commentary about lobby money). He backed Aquino over his own man Evasco in the rice importation imbroglio. So far, he has steered clear of the tiff of his fellow lawyers, Aquirre and Morales. But, as legal principles go, Sec. Aguirre is the President’s alter ego while the Ombudsman is independent. 

When reed is mightier than oak. Heard incessantly throughout the entire Gina vs. Big Mining pintakasi was that the electronics and telecommunications industries were the drivers of the huge demand for minerals. Classic blame sharing scheme hatched by the giant mining interests – its really not them but us, with our cell phone and gadget obsessions, that are costing the earth.

Well, all over the region and in places as far flung as Mexico you will find examples of progress and development that need not come at too high an environmental cost. In infrastructure, a favorite renewable that has high prospects in replacing the traditional mineral based construction materials is the ubiquitous bamboo.

Our beloved Philippines just happens to be one of the top exporters of bamboo in the world. You will find around 62 species of this “grass” on our shores with 21 of them endemic. With greater tensile strength than steel in a lighter, cheaper, more environmentally friendly package (has a very low carbon footprint), this renewable source may just be the fuel to ignite a welcome boom.

Properly managed, our resources have the potential of taking us to 2nd behind world leader China in bamboo exports. The opportunities are endless – we are already seeing bridges, towers, buildings built using bamboo. With the build build build infrastructure program of the administration, it is timely to consider the place of the bamboo in our nation’s infrastructure future.

Smokeless in Manila. Last April, President Mayor Joseph E. Estrada signed the ordinance strengthening the public smoking ban in the capital city. This 2017 ordinance increased the penalties and coverage of an older 1991 version. Manila first enacted a no public smoking ordinance in 1969. Following Manila’s searing pace, several LGUs likewise imposed a ban on public smoking. Last Thursday, where Manila went, so did the Nation go – the President signed Executive Order No. 26 which further shrank the already diminishing world of the public smoker.

This nationwide prohibition institutionalizes a widely held sentiment which, following the LGUs lead, has actually been written into law. In at least two Republic Acts, the Clean Air Act and the Tobacco Regulation Law, smoking in public has been outlawed by Congress. In fact, the Clean Air Act leaves only three indoor places sacred to the smoker: (1) his home; (2) his private workplace; and (3) the designated smoking areas. Outside of these three, you smoke outside. In a survey conducted by the Department of Health last decade, it was determined that almost 40% of our LGUs have enacted their own anti-smoking ordinances. Yes, this includes Davao City. 

Tidbits. Congratulations Pilipinas Gilas for dominating the 2017 SEABA tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

 

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