What I will be looking for in the SONA
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
IN my column last week, I stressed the need for our Church to become more sensitive to the plight of the poor in our country. One reader wrote to me saying that I am anti-Church and that I could not call myself a devout Catholic for writing the article. Does sharing one’s opinion about how the Church can become more relevant to the signs of the times now constitute to being against it? I hope that our Church leaders and its most devout followers would learn to take constructive criticism and advice especially from its members. As we have learned in our Christian Life Education and Theology classes at the Ateneo, the Church as an institution is not just the bishops and the priests but it also includes ordinary members of the laity. As we have learned in organizational development, the surest way for an institution to fail is for it to remain stagnant and not be able to keep itself abreast with what is happening in our society. Like many of its believers, I would like to see our Church and her teachings to continue to become a relevant part in living our daily lives.
Not the Church
Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan City
Just to clear the air, I am not criticizing the Church as an institution but rather I am expressing my disappointment at some of its leaders such as Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who even wrote to ask for an SUV as his birthday gift from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in exchange for his unwavering support of her administration. How can an esteemed member of the clergy such as Bishop Pueblos continue to support Arroyo and turn a blind eye to the scandalous corruption that occurred during her time? Worse, while millions of Filipinos grow hungry each day and officials close to Arroyo live extravagant lifestyles, you have some members of the clergy such as those in Pampanga who continue to even use the pulpit to show their undying loyalty and support to her. Wasn’t it greed and corruption that led Judas Iscariot to sell Jesus Christ to his enemies for a few silver coins? I pray that we will have more Church leaders like Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J. and Fr. Melo Diola who have made it their apostolate to work towards creating a clean, honest and effective government for every Filipino.
What to look for at the SONA
President Noynoy Aquino
This coming Monday, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will be delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA) which is supposed to contain the achievement of his administration during the past year as well as his plans for the coming year. Here are some things that I will be looking for during his SONA.
Firstly, I hope that the President would be able to show how effective the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has been in terms of curbing poverty and hunger among millions of Filipinos. Our government invested more than P21 Billion in taxpayer’s money thus, if we see that this program hasn’t been effective then perhaps the money should be channeled to other key priorities of the administration such as improving access and quality of basic education as well as public health.
Secondly, I would like the President to also share with the Filipino people his administration’s achievements in the fight against graft and corruption in our government. How many government officials have now been put to jail or have been suspended due to their involvement in graft and corruption? How much has the government saved due to its review and rescinding of erroneous contracts that clearly place our government at a disadvantage? What new policies have been put into place to make bidding and procurement more transparent and accountable? These would concretely show every Filipino that the administration is on the right track in keeping its campaign promise to eradicate graft and corruption in our government.
Thirdly, I would hope to hear the President deliver a clear policy statement and program when it comes to providing universal access to quality healthcare especially to Filipinos who continue to live below the poverty line. Majority of Filipinos especially those living in rural communities have not yet been enrolled to PhilHealth which would provide them with access to medical treatment that they would need in case they get sick. A healthy country will lead to a more productive economy.
Finally, I am expecting that our President will finally express his full support in ensuring the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill which should become one of the main pillars in his promise to promote greater transparency and accountability in our government. An FOI law will help prevent cases such as the Fertilizer Scam, PCSO Fund Scam and the Eurogenerals scam from happening again. More importantly, it gives the power to ordinary Filipinos to demand information about the use of public funds from their local government leaders. The only people I see who may not be inclined to support this measure are our public officials who may have dark secrets that they wouldn’t want to bring to light.
Asia Society’s Young Leaders of the Philippines
The Asia Society-Philippines recently concluded its search for this year’s batch of Asia 21-Philippines Young Leaders fellows. The chosen fellows will represent the country in the upcoming Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in New Delhi, India this coming November. The summit gathers more than 200 young leaders from different fields across the Asia-Pacific region. The chosen Asia 21-Philippines fellows for this year are as follows: Mayor Paulino Leachon, Michael Sandejas, Atty. Lesley Cordero, Joy Anya Lim, Doris Dumlao, Solvie Nubla-Lee, Jeffrey Tarayao, Annalie Edday and Alvin Dakis. Congratulations to all of you! I will write more about these inspiring young leaders in my column next week.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my blog at : http://harveykeh.wordpress.com
Follow me at : http://twitter.com/harveykeh
Pass the FOI
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
Up until now, there is not much priority being given by our leaders at the House of Representatives regarding the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) that will compel government institutions and leaders to become more transparent and accountable about their programs, processes, funds and systems. Many nongovernment organizations and media groups have strongly been lobbying for this since this is clearly a mechanism which will deter our government officials from engaging in graft and corrupt practices.
If we will recall, during the last Congress, the FOI was supposed to already be passed into law if it wasn’t for the lack of quorum and attendance among our so called “honorable” legislators.
What is disappointing is the fact that if this were a bill that would bring in so called “lobby money” such as increasing the taxes on cigarettes and liquor, I am sure that many of our legislators would be more than willing to participate. Perhaps many of our legislators are also afraid that their shenanigans will be revealed if the FOI is passed. As we all know, sinful acts and crime are committed usually in darkness and maybe many of our legislator believe that the FOI might bring to light their ghost projects and programs.
If the present administration is really serious about pursuing transparency and social accountability in our government, it will crack its whip among its allies in the House of Representatives to immediately enact the FOI into law.
Sports world corruption rumors
Speaking about graft and corruption, rumor has it that a high-ranking official at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is known in sports circles as “Mr. 30 percent” because he makes sure that he gets a kickback or commission of 30 percent from every purchasing contract at the PSC. If this is indeed true, it is no wonder why our athletes continue to perform below par as evidenced by our disappointing performance in the recent Asian Games, which were held these past two weeks in China.
We finished 19th overall among all the countries that participated while our Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand and Malaysia finished in ninth and 10th place respectively. Our performance in the last Asian Games even pales in comparison to our performance in the last two Asian Games (South Korea in 2002 and Qatar in 2006) where we were able to garner more medals.
Now, one has to ask, why hasn’t anyone in our government or any of our sports leaders taken full accountability and responsibility for this failed performance? If we can demand the resignation of our tourism officials for a flawed tourism campaign then why can’t we demand the same from our sports officials? Sadly, our country hasn’t even produced a single Olympic gold medalist while our other Asian counterparts such as China, South Korea and Japan are now competing with other Western nations for global sports supremacy at the Olympics.
Are our athletes really inferior to the Chinese, Japanese or Koreans? Of course not! Manny Pacquiao, Paeng Nepomuceno and Efren “Bata” Reyes” have already shown that the Filipino can be the best in the world if we are given the proper training and support by our government officials.
The bad news is even our sports has been politicized as seen in the selection of athletes in recent years.
If you are not in the good graces of the one in power even if you are the best in your sport, you won’t be included in the list of athletes that will participate in international competitions. Worse, certain sports associations such as equestrian and cycling have had long drawn out power struggles within themselves so much so that their athletes were even barred from competing abroad. Unless these issues are resolved, our dream of earning our first gold medal in the coming Olympics in London this coming 2012 will remain just a dream for all of us.
‘Jueteng’ thrives thanks to police and officials
Again on the issue of corruption, I agree with Archbishop Oscar Cruz and former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio that jueteng is also a major source of corruption since it thrives primarily because our police and local officials allow themselves to be bribed and bought off by the jueteng lords. I was just in Pangasinan the other day and one of our Kaya Natin! Champions, former councilor Atty. Francis Tinio, mentioned to me that jueteng is indeed back in his province. I hope the Philippine National Police will address this immediately since this runs contrary to their claims that jueteng has already been eradicated in Pangasinan.
Our Ateneo Social Enterprise Bazaar will already be held tomorrow, December 3 (Friday), in front of the Fr. Ortiz Hall, Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. Entrance is free of charge. For more information, please contact Cristyl Senajon at (02) 434-1458.