• Time to re-examine ourselves


    LAS VEGAS: Nevada, the home state of this Sin City, is showing higher political morality and maturity than the only Christian country in Asia. This Christmas season, and with this in mind, it’s time we look deeper and re-evaluate our national ethos.

    The consensus made incoming Speaker of the Nevada legislature, Rep. Ira Hansen, a Republican, abandon his life-long ambition when state netizens, backed by local media, came out criticizing his positions and negative views on race and homosexuality when he was a newspaper columnist and radio talk show host. No Filipino politician would ever do what Hansen has done – give up a coveted post in the face of strong criticisms from the public. Forget everything you hear that a Filipino politician will always listen to his “bosses.” That happens only when what he hears jibes with his own thinking.

    Hansen’s replacement, fellow Republican Rep. John Hendrick, is also praiseworthy. He named Rep. Michele Fiore as chairman of the ways and means committee but when he learned something that she had withheld, he immediately withdrew her appointment. He found out that Fiore was facing a huge lien on her assets from the Internal Revenue Service. She contended that the case was not as big as reported and claimed that other Republican politicians were spearheading the black propaganda against her. Hendrick, however, was unmoved. He said it’s anomalous to have somebody facing tax charges to head the taxation committee.

    A number of times, President BS Aquino The Last, I mean The Third, was criticized for his questionable appointments. Those of Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Transportation Secretary Anthony Abaya, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala immediately come to mind. Yet, despite the tidal wave of calls for their dismissal, BS Aquino has chosen to keep them. Oh well, we can always presume that these Cabinet members are ever-loyal to him, but what about loyalty to the public?

    Incidentally, there’s a rule in the Nevada legislature that’s worth emulating by the Philippine Congress. This rule says that no bill filed after the eighth week of session will be entertained. Thus, after the eighth week of regular session, there’s no more bill to be read on first reading. How I wish we have the same rule in our Rules of Procedure. At present, both the House and the Senate allow bills to be filed even when Congress is about to adjourn sine die.

    This thoughtless adherence to the legislative rigmarole wastes a lot of time for a legislature about to wind up its affairs and is supposed to concentrate on the more vital pieces of legislation. Sometimes, the Senate spent about half-an-hour for the first reading of bills that were filed merely to give their authors some sense of accomplishment. It’s inane for the House and the Senate to be reading bills on first reading when there’s no more time for the bills to undergo public hearings, committee deliberations, floor debates, voting on second and third reading, and the unavoidable bicam.

    Still on legislative matters but outside of Nevada, I feel green with envy on reading the news report about two American congressmen, both millionaires, who had turned down a congressional pension when they retire at the end of the year. Republican Rep. Norman Hastings of Washington state said in a published statement: “While I plan on receiving Social Security benefits upon retirement, I do not believe public officials should unduly benefit from their years of representing their constituents.”

    Hastings could have received an annual pension of $53,000 under a generous plan drawn specifically for lawmakers.

    Rep. Howard Coble, 83, of North Carolina, is giving up an annual pension estimated at $135,200 a year, after serving 30 years in the House. Like Hastings, Coble promised early in the campaigns not to accept a congressional pension. The two remained true to their promise to their “bosses.”

    The report said long-time members of US Congress can begin drawing a full pension at age 62 but beginning pensions can’t exceed $139,000. Critics say the pension plan for congressmen is two to three times more generous than those offered by the private sector to workers with similar salaries.

    Worst airport
    At the NAIA 1, on the day of my departure, the original departure gate was leaking so passengers had to walk a long way to another gate. It’s really living up to its billing as one of the worst airports in the world. This was more than made up for by the pleasant trip on board Korean Air. I still wonder why PAL has stopped plying the Manila-Las Vegas route and why PAL charges higher fare for flights to Manila.




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