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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, July 25, 2016
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Twinkling
with Ninfa Leonardia
OPINIONS

Freedom of Information from whom?

Ninfa Leonardia Barely a day after she left the Veterans Memorial Hospital where she had been detained for almost four years, it was announced that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is leaving for the United States to seek treatment. But I thought she had fully recovered already after reaching her La Vista home? Her published photos show her as looking better already. But will the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan not interpose objections to her travel plans? Seems they still have a lot of other charges pending that could keep her in town. Let us see what the president will say. Maybe he will announce it at his SONA today?

***

I hear that an executive order on the Freedom of Information has already been issued by the President. Was it timed for his State of the Nation Address? But, as far as information directly from him, it looks like there is no freedom whatsoever, he has refused, to talk directly to the media, and all we get from him are second-hand information dished out by his subalterns. Or is it he himself who has been denied freedom of speech, perhaps self-imposed? There is always a first time for everytime, even the way freedom is practiced.

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Again, it is Senator Franklin Drilon who has initiated the Anti-Dynasty Bill, that has been talked about for so long now, but had never been acted upon so far. And this is probably the best time to file it because elections are still far-off and the dynasties existing can make other plans. In Senate Bill NO. 230, the degrees of relationship among those seeking political positions are clearly stated, and those within the second degree of consanginity or affinity are prohibited from seeking office. And this applies to whether they are legitimately or illegitimately related.

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Just before the last election somebody in Bacolod sent me anonymously a xeroxed copy showing the pictures of a mayor and seven persons of the same family name, who were allegedly all under the payroll of the city. One was a councilor, another an executive assistant, another a private secretary, one a SEEU-SPM and five were JO-CMO, who were identified as a brother, a cousin, a brother-in-law of a son, and two nieces! Together with their leader, the gang had allegedly received P10,240,920 from the city, aside from their allowances and bonuses, like PERA, RATA and clothing allowances! Can anyone blame them for being devastated after the election?

***

It's not only governors, mayors and congressmen who are the targets of the Ombudsman when it comes to wrongdoing in office. In Kalansig, Sultal Kudarat, the municipal engineer, Arlene Olivar, was charged for graft when she purchased for the town an IXTUS camera costing P16,000 from a store owned by her mother. Then in Dingle town in Iloilo, Mayor Rufino Palabrica is facing two charges involving graft from the Ombudsman for issuing a business permit and a lease contract in favor of his own drugstore and medical clinic. The Ombudsman cited conflict of interest between his official and business interest.

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A report from the Tribune said that President Duterte wants to tell China that it can lay claims to all the seas and oceans of the world – the Pacific, the Atlantic, and even the Indian Ocean. The report quoted him as saying, “You can have them all, we have resources in Mindanao that China knows nothing about.” Oh dear! Now you tell them, and they might come cruising that way soon! And we will have to run to the Permanent Court of Arbitration again.

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Thankfully, the report added that he changed his tune later and made a 180 degree turn after meeting with U.S. senators and Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who called on him at the palace, and told him that the PCA decision is non-negotiable. Well, maybe we can breathe easier now that “Steady Eddie” or former President Fidel Ramos has agreed to take on the job of meeting with China's officials. He has been reported as saying that his medics have given him a clean bill of health for the mission. As for us, let us follow him with our prayers, so he will be inspired in his discussion with the Chinese officials. Do they speak English, I wonder.

***

By the way there are some signs that China may be trying to be conciliatory, like offering to share the fishing grounds with us. Oh, no, let not Tito Fidel (that's what we call him in private, having Ramos for a middle name, too) budge, and see to it that justice is truly served. Some have suggested that China might offer to rent the area. Will that be acceptable, when it always insists that any talks now must not include the PCA decision? We already have the upper hand, let's not allow anyone to pull it down.*

 

 

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