Popular Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paolo Coelho de Souza once wrote that “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”
Well, some things are happening over and over again in our society.
My very first write-up in All Insight had this heading- Misinforming the President…and the Filipino People. In there I said that, “President Duterte himself admitted the problem in this manner, ‘The problem is I can only act through agencies and departments. … I act through secretaries and… I cannot guarantee their honesty and competence at all times.’”
I further added that, “for reasons known only to them and probably to some businessmen, fed the wrong information to Transport Secretary Art Tugade. Secretary Tugade then relayed the wrong information to the President. Thereby, misinforming the President … as well as the Filipino people.”
I am again using the same head in this particular issue of All Insight – Misinforming the President.
The recent events, specifically relating to the inclusion of former Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr. (now congressman) in the so-called “drug matrix” tells us that it is happening again. The President was once more misinformed.
Public apology to Espino
On September 27, 2016, during an inspection of a shabu laboratory in Pampanga, President Duterte publicly apologized to Espino in this manner, “I think somehow we were negligent in counterchecking during the first report. So to Espino…I would like to apologize to you publicly. I would say now I am very sorry.” The President likewise extended his apologies to Pangasinan board member Raul Sison and former Pangasinan provincial administrator Raffy Baraan. The President reiterated that there were lapses in the revalidation of the drug matrix.
Not contented with his first public apology to Espino et. al., the President expressed regret again, for falsely accusing the trio, before he left for an official trip to Vietnam. These were his words: “It is my duty, if I commit wrong, I should apologize. That is the way to go in this world. So I am again, for the third time and the last time, I am offering my apology to Gov. Espino, si Sison… yung sa drugs hindi ko talaga makita yung linya (with the drugs, I cannot see the connection). As a lawyer, when you make public a certain wrong against a person you’d have effectively destroyed his reputation. So kaya it’s very fair. Wala naman akong ano, kung nagkamali ako. Marami akong pagkakamali sa buhay. (It’s nothing, if I made a mistake. I made a lot of mistakes in life.) I will not pretend that I am perfect…”
Is it now the official policy of this administration to let the President apologize for the mistakes and lapses of his underlings? I believe that public officials, who caused this fiasco, should be made publicly accountable. Do not let the President apologize for their incompetence and ineptness.
Uncommon common station
The North Avenue Station, fronting SM North EDSA, is the original “end-of-line” terminal of LRT Line 1 and the “technically sound” common interchange station that would link the three rail lines – LRT1, MRT3, and MRT7.
SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI) had already paid the government some P200 million for the naming rights of the common station, considering that it would be built right in front of its own mall. This was way back in September of 2009.
In 2011, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) “opened” for bidding the construction of the common station. Subsequently, then Transport Secretary Mar Roxas ordered a review of the project, resulting in its indefinite shelving. When Jun Abaya took the helm at the DOTC, his executives floated the idea of transferring the common station to Ayala’s Trinoma Mall.
Records would show that former Undersecretary for Rails, Rene Limcaoco, insisted on “approving” the transfer of the common station to Trinoma Mall, despite its “technically defective” design and location. Seeing no relief from DOTC, SM Prime then brought its case way to the Supreme Court, which in turn issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against DOTC and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), enjoining them from transferring the common station to Trinoma Mall.
On September 28, 2016, after seven long years of waiting, the common station will finally be built. A “Term Sheet for the LRT-1, MRT-3, and MRT-7 Unified Station” was signed by the big businesses of SMPHI (represented by Hans Sy), Universal LRT Corporation Limited (ULC, represented by Ramon Ang), Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC, represented by Manuel Pangilinan) and North Triangle Depot Commercial Corporation (NDCC, represented by Jaime Zobel de Ayala).
Renato Reyes of Bayan Muna raised some questions on this “uncommon” deal. He posted in their Facebook page: “On behalf of commuters and taxpayers, we urge the government to disclose the details of the so-called compromise agreement between private groups in relation to the LRT-MRT common station in Quezon City. For years, because of the maneuverings of the Abaya group in DOTC, the common station project was held hostage by contending business interests. The past admin wanted to favor another business group even if this would escalate costs and result in inconvenience to commuters. This triggered a court battle and a restraining order. With the so-called compromise, we would want to know the terms of the agreement, including the cost of the project and who will foot the bill. We would want to know the impact it will have on commuters. Why was a compromise necessary when the original plan was feasible? Why the need to accommodate different business interests? The DoTr should explain. In the interest of transparency, it should disclose details of the deal.”
In his radio interview over DZMM, Ka Nato said in the vernacular, “sa matagal din na panahon na ipit yung proyekto sa common station dahil nga po may labanan ng malalaking negosyante kung saan itatayo dapat yung common station. At nagging napakakumplikado nang ang usapin sa panahon ng Aquino administration kasi nga ho sila yung nagbago ng mga terms ng study para pumabor naman sa iba pang negosyante na hindi naman originally ah dapat sa lugar niya itatayo ang common station na ito. …Mukhang kompromiso sa pagitan ng dalawang negosyante yung naganap….Pero kung ano yung nuon at ano yung magiging epekto nito samananakay, yun ang hindi pa natin nakikita. (The common station project did not move because of the wrangling between big businesses on where it should be constructed. It became so complicated during the time of the Aquino administration because they changed the terms of the study to favor an enterprise which is not a part of the original plan … This seems to be a compromise between two businesses … But, what will be its effect on the train riders, we have not seen it yet.)”
A term sheet without definite terms
A perusal of the Term Sheet actually shows nothing definite in it. For one, it states that, “[f]or the avoidance of doubt, by entering into this Term Sheet, the Stakeholders do not intend to supplant or defy the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 213234 dated July 30, 2014.” As part of a judicial compromise, the signatories agreed to sign a more definitive agreement/s among themselves and agree on the terms thereat.
The Supreme Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order in this tenor –
“Acting on the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restrainingorder and writ of preliminary injunction, the Court furthermore resolves to ISSUE a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, as prayed for, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, enjoining the respondents, their agents and representatives, from proceeding with the transfer of the Common Station in front of SM City North EDSA to the new site in front of Trinoma Mall in North Avenue, Quezon City.”
“NOW, THEREFORE, you, the Light Rail Transit Authority and the Department of Transportation and Communications, and/or all persons acting upon your orders or, in your place or stead, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, are hereby ENJOINED from proceeding with the transfer of the Common Station in front of SM City North EDSA to the new site in front of Trinoma Mall in North A venue,
Going back to the same Term Sheet, it specified that “DOTr and LRTA acknowledge SMPHI’s naming and interconnectivity rights to the Unified Station, as provided in the SMPHI MOA dated September 28, 2009.”
What? If the government, through DOTr and LRTA, recognizes SMPHI’s rights, then why not allow SMPHI to go ahead with the construction of the common station? Why the need to execute a Term Sheet with other big businesses? This bolsters the common belief that DOTr is beholden to the interests of big businesses.
Mr. Ted Failon was correct when he broadcast that the Term Sheet is nothing but an agreement for these businesses to agree. There is nothing definite on the Term Sheet. All the “terms” are general clauses, all “motherhood” statements.
Reducing traffic congestion – A redux
I really do not want to write again on the persisting and worsening traffic situation in the metropolis but circumstances forced me to so.
I left Quezon City Hall at about 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday and arrived at Salcedo Village, Makati City shortly before 6 p.m. Yes, something had changed. What used to be a one hour hard drive is now a two-hour harder drive.
This administration does not need emergency powers to solve the traffic congestion. What it needs is an honest-to-goodness implementation of traffic laws and a lot of common sense. I took pictures of the traffic situation on that day and I will ask that they be displayed in the digital edition of this newspaper.
The orange plastic barriers, which were lined-up along EDSA, is a product of an unimaginative mind. Its main purpose is to segregate traffic flow and not to restrict the movement of vehicles. Green and white signs with “BUS LANE PRIVATE ” markings stand but the barriers are closed. Motorists who passed through these areas suddenly found the openings closed. The result is a total segregation between the three inner lanes and the two outer lanes. The vehicles in the inner lanes moved at around 30 kph (at that time, probably not always) while the vehicles in the segregated outer lanes moved at around 3 kph.
Yellow and white signs posted on the electric poles say, “CITY BUSES TAKE SERVICE ROAD. Violators will be apprehended.” However, public utility buses (PUBs) were in the inner lanes instead of the yellow lane. Nobody apprehended these erring drivers.
Since the orange barriers are totally closed, these PUBS cannot go back to the yellow lane. These buses then dangerously offload passengers in the middle of EDSA. The passengers are constrained to walk alongside the barriers until they can find an opening where they squeeze themselves to go to the sidewalk. This situation is precarious – it exposes the pedestrians to the risk of being run over by other vehicles. Much more, they contribute to the traffic congestion as well.
I asked the MMDA enforcers, who were just standing there and doing nothing, why the orange barriers are closed and why they are allowing the buses to offload passengers in the middle of EDSA. One of these enforcers curtly replied, “Sir sila na may command ng EDSA ngayon (Sir, they are the ones in command of EDSA now.)” What? If they are not in command and cannot do anything anymore, what is the sense of these MMDA enforcers staying in EDSA?
Moral of the story: Authorities who cannot force their authority should not stay in EDSA. Signs that are destined not to be followed should be removed, it makes a mockery of the authority. Orange barriers are there to create artificial traffic congestion and restrict the movement of the vehicles. Traffic laws are blatantly violated but no one is apprehending these drivers.
Where is the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT)? They should get their acts together.
It’s dumb. It’s criminal! (a line from a forthcoming movie)
Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us at www.facebook.com/All Insight at The Manila Times.