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An embarrassing National Geographic documentary

Last Tuesday night, we saw National Geographic’s premier night of their documentary entitled “Asia’s Titanic” which was about the tragic sinking of Sulpicio Lines’ M/V Doña Paz, a sea disaster that happened 22 years ago when it collided with the tanker M/T Vector that resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 passengers (it may have been more than that figure) and earned the title as the Worst Peacetime Maritime Disaster.

It was, to say the least, a great embarrassment for the Philippine government as it did not only feature the M/V Doña Paz incident; it also talked about the sinking of the M/V Doña Marilyn. Call us lucky that the documentary made no mention of the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars; perhaps that documentary was already in its finishing stages. It was only through that documentary that we were able to visualize what really happened in that disaster! Hence this brings me back to the question, when will we create our own National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate land, sea and air disasters in this country?

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Next month, Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) heads for London and Saudi Arabia for a speaking engagement. With the recent brouhaha over the lavish dinners that the President and her entourage had at the fabulous Le Cirque Restaurant in New York and the Bobby Vans Restaurant in Washington D. C. a month ago, I’m sure that the President’s protocol officer would now take extra care on ensuring that the President doesn’t get invited by people who may have “ulterior motives” to pay for their dinners.

I have said it here before that I fully concur with many pundits that the President should dine in a place that befits her rank as the representative of the Filipino people in a foreign country. However what I abhor is that, she brought with her too many “tag-alongs” who also need to be fed! If she reduced the number of Congressmen and women to be with her, then those dinners wouldn’t really cost that much!

But what gets my gall is that there are just too many people who paid for those lavish dinners because they both had an ulterior motive. This was the subject of an editorial by The Philippine STAR last Saturday. While Rep. Martin Romualdez was the first to make his mea culpa, he has remained mum since then. It just so happens that Rep. Romualdez is facing legal problems before the Sandiganbayan for the withdrawal of P138 million from PCIBank in October 2005 when he was the chairman of that bank. The Sandiganbayan has now held that money in escrow pending a ruling on the assets of Imelda’s family for ill-gotten wealth. Rep. Martin’s father is Benjamin Romualdez, brother of Imelda Marcos.

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Rep. Danilo Suarez was more open to the media, declaring that he paid the $15,000 tab of the Arroyo entourage in Bobby Vans Restaurant in Washington DC. But now we know that Rep. Suarez’s family is seeking for a P1 billion loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). So was Rep. Suarez paying for the dinner an act to “bribe” the President so that his loan request could be okayed by DBP?

If at all, I take comfort from the fact that the DBP under its President & CEO Reynaldo G. David and Board of Directors has achieved a very high degree of professionalism unheard of in government agencies today. My sources within the DBP told me that the Suarez loan isn’t even on the radar screen yet. But knowing how they ran the DBP today, chances are good that the DBP board won’t approve the Suarez loan if they know that the Suarez family cannot pay back this loan. Let’s dig deeper into this.

Five months ago, I attended a Good Governance for Corporate Directors Forum hosted by the DBP, which is why I strongly believe DBP in the professionalism of their top officials. If only all the other government agencies followed the lead of DBP, we would have less corruption in government service… and less embarrassment for our country.

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My good friend Edu Manzano has quit as chairman of the Optical Media Board (OMB) and this is good news for film pirates all over the country who can now sell their stolen wares without fear of getting raided by OMB. While I’m not happy that Edu has quit the OMB, I also know that Edu is just one too busy fella and his got his hands full of activities. So we would like to know who replaced Edu? With this development, I’ll bet that the Philippines will once more make it to the US watch list of countries that do nothing about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violations.

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