One ‘ampaw’ is enough, 2 are too much


President BS Aquino The Last, I mean, The Third, has urged the electorate not to vote for any “ampaw” for president. Unfortunately, his advice came too late. He should have said so in 2010.

Nobody quarrels with his advice against electing an “ampaw.” (For the uninitiated, an “ampaw” is a sugar-coated rice delicacy with nothing but air inside.) The country doesn’t want any more of “unprecedented” gross domestic product growth rate increase that’s felt only by 10 percent of the population and does not reduce unemployment. That GDP figure is pure “ampaw.”

Any “war” against corruption that excludes friends, classmates and relatives of the powers that be is nothing but hot air, an “ampaw.” The same could be said of the Conditional Cash Transfer program. Billions of pesos spent, thousands of beneficiaries added in the battle against poverty. The CCT failed to make a dent. In fact, more people have become poorer.

BS Aquino announced quite pompously that he would pursue numerous public-private partnership projects. This announcement was well-received; the results were a big letdown. The PPP drumbeating is hollow, like “ampaw.” Only a few of those projects could be implemented within the term of the present administration.

Of what use is having a “Man of Steel” for president if that “superman” has coughing fits and couldn’t provide the action and the results needed by the country? Definitely, “one ampaw” president is enough. The Philippines can’t survive two successive “ampaws” in Malacanang, not counting the “ampaws” in the Cabinet.

Ah, but it might console the Yellows to learn that there’s a lot more “ampaws” in the legislature than in Malacañang. The most number of “ampaws” in Congress were produced by much publicized inquiries in aid of legislation. The Senate probed the suspicious continuous dredging of lahars in Pampanga that cost the government millions of pesos. This inquiry was undertaken after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo following reports that little dredging was done and at an overprice at that. The Senate inquiry into the mess was extensively covered by print and broadcast. Sadly, it yielded nothing but hot air. I may be wrong but I can’t remember any committee report that came out of that inquiry.

Another Senate inquiry without any committee report was that on the proliferation of jueteng jointly undertaken by the Senate Committee on Public Order then headed by Sen. Manny Villar and the Senate Committee on Games and Amusements headed by Sen. Lito Lapid. Before the hearing started, Sen. Nene Pimentel asked that Lapid recuse himself from the inquiry because of his closeness to Bong Pineda, reputedly one of the biggest jueteng financiers/operators in the country. Lapid admitted that he was close to Pineda but refused to inhibit himself, saying no proof has been presented against Pineda.

The hearings attracted SRO crowds, and were fully covered by newspapers and radio and television stations. Claims on the delivery of payola to congressmen, including then Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, and police generals hogged the headlines. Those hearings gave senators an opportunity to project themselves into the limelight. That inquiry did not produce anything in aid of legislation. I can’t remember if there was any committee report signed but I do remember that none had reached the floor. Another “ampaw” inquiry!

Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, head of the yellow ribbon committee, conducted also an inquiry into jueteng and the alleged involvement of then DILG Usec Rico Puno. Guingona accepted at face value Puno’s inability to identify the alleged representatives of jueteng lords who went to his office, and his denial of receiving any payola. So, why and did jueteng activities proliferate under the Aquino administration? Ah, but that’s a question too deep to be asked by somebody close to Malacañang like Guingona.

At least, the joint Senate committees of Lapid and Villar ended their jueteng inquiry. The same couldn’t be said of the probe into smuggling initiated by Sen. Chiz Escudero, head of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Chiz said there would be no need to enact new taxes or to increase the rates of existing ones if the government could only minimize smuggling. When there was a change in Senate leadership, however, Chiz was replaced by Sen. Ping Lacson. For strange reasons, Lacson aborted the inquiry into smuggling activities. That inquiry wouldn’t have been an “ampaw” had Lacson resumed where Chiz had left off.


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