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Can’t his advisers restrain Duterte?

Surely there are men of goodwill around President Duterte. They’d do well to caution him against using armed might on the Ombudsman investigators of his bank accounts. He sounds unconvincing, disavowing billion-peso deposits while also threatening the probers with police-military arrest. Employing the awesome powers of the Presidency makes him look like he’s hiding something. His friends know that. If they keep quiet, it can only be out of cowardice or hidden agenda. Whichever, they’re letting Duterte lose equanimity.

Wildly challenging the Ombudsman and the Chief Justice to resign with him is impolitic. True pals must tell Duterte the constitutional outcome of that. The Vice President will ascend to power, and name replacements to the two vacated posts and even the new VP. Where would that leave Duterte and the mutes?

Meanwhile the arch-foe-senator is scoring political brownie points. He’s having a field day waiving bank secrecy over the overseas accounts that Duterte alleges, as pressure mounts for Duterte to do the same. The senator’s supposed depositories have disproved the accounts. Duterte is reduced to claiming to have concocted the debunked account numbers to spite the senator. Moles continue to feed Duterte false intelligence, to be on his good side though not for his own good.

Palace gnomes make Duterte focus on peace and order while they run the economy – to the ground. The administration is under-spending; none of the ballyhooed thousands of infra-works has broken ground; trade and industries are faltering; unemployment is worsening. The gnomes are busy “commissioning.” In cordon sanitaire, only they keep the President company, exploiting the loneliness at the top.

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“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3: 20-21

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 “Either he faces us or he faces jail.” So declares Rep. Jericho Nograles of Marlo dela Cruz, the Liberal Party mystery man behind the MRT-3’s sloppy upkeep. The House of Reps during the Aquino tenure had tolerated dela Cruz’s snubs of invitations to explain the commuter railway’s deterioration despite multibillion-peso maintenance contracts. Not anymore, says Nograles, who has been turning up proof upon proof of anomalous dealings. Ignoring Congress’ invitation to today’s hearing would lead to dela Cruz’s arrest. Dela Cruz will be asked about his reported supply of P4-million (fake?) signaling parts that did not come from MRT-3’s system maker Bombardier of Canada. The trains have been conking out twice to thrice daily due mostly to signaling failures.

Investigating congressmen will have a full plate. They need to look into why MRT-3’s present maintenance contractor Busan Universal Rail Inc. gets its parts and equipment only from disgraced past contractor dela Cruz. The past admin had locked in the transport department to a three-year P3.8-billion deal with Busan. Busan has failed not only to maintain the trains but also to overhaul 43 of the coaches.

Yet Busan is about to bag another P1.2-billion deal, to replace the MRT-3 tracks. It reportedly turned in the lowest bid. (Denouncing faulty government contracting laws, President Rodrigo Duterte has been saying the lowest is not necessarily the best.) Before forming Busan, its managing director Eugene Rapanut had brokered in 2013 the lowest bid, P3.8 billion, to supply 48 new coaches from China. Delivered late and defective, none of the units are operative.

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At the Senate today will resume the inquiry into corruption at Customs. Sen. Panfilo Lacson is to scrutinize the activities under recently resigned commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who has said he won’t attend. (Contrary to reports, Faeldon is not from the Philippine Military Academy.)

Lacson enumerates four levels of bribery. Basic is the “tara” (protection money) from regular importers. At P5,000 per cargo container at the Manila port alone, Customs crooks amass P10 million a day.

Still, cargo may be held for inspection by the Import Assessment Service or the Command Center. That’s an additional P50,000 per released container, Lacson says.

The Office of the Commissioner may also delay the inspection, for yet another P200,000 per release of container.

Finally there’s the costliest, the return of confiscated contraband to the smuggler: P350,000 per container.

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 “Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” the social awakening cinema hit of the 1970s, is now a musicale. Catch the last play dates this week.

The legendary Lino Brocka directed the 1975 film about the harsh exploitative realities of life in the big city. Starring Hilda Koronel and Bembol Roco, “Maynila” won nine major FAMAS awards and was feted worldwide. Edgardo M. Reyes’ novelette first was serialized in Liwayway Magazine in 1966-1967. It led the social realism in literature of the time. Clodualdo del Mundo Jr. wrote the screenplay; cinematography was by Mike de Leon.

Multi-award-winning film and stage artist Joel Lamangan directs the musicale version. Composition and musical direction by Von de Guzman; libretto by Jose Victor Torres and Em Mendez; choreography by Douglas Nierras. Arman Ferrer stars as Julio Madiaga; Lara Maigue alternates with Sheila Valderrama-Martinez as Ligaya Paraiso.

Tonight to Friday, Oct. 4-6, at 8 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinee on the last day, at Kia Theater, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. For tickets, call Bards Lapid, +63917-8466704; or landlines (02) 8977142, 8900853, 8906067; or Ticketnet (02) 9115555.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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