Same old story
JAYWALKER - Art Borjal () - June 4, 2002 - 12:00am
The Commission on Appointments put up another moro moro. The CA confirmation hearing on the ad interim appointment of DOTC Secretary Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez took another turn last Tuesday, May 21; it was another moro moro show and a sheer waste of time. It put to focus once again the inadequacy of the members of the committee on transportation of the Commission on Appointments to steer the proceedings according to the rules of the CA and the rules of propriety.
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Every Tom, Dick and Harry with every imaginable grievance against Secretary "Bebot" Alvarez as allowed by the committee to use the hearings as a forum to publicly humiliate the nominee. For example, a group of women from Subic and Olongapo, and former SEC chairman Jun Yasay took turns in assailing the DOTC chief. The committee must have had a valid reason for putting Yasay on the stand, but I am at a loss why they were given the floor at all.
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As a result, nothing substantial happened. No new allegations or evidence that would denigrate Alvarez’s fitness for the top DOTC job turned up. Everything was a rehash of the previous spectacles that had attended previous committee hearings. So far, nothing has been proven that would show that Alvarez is not qualified for the job and that he had committed irregularities.
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Yet, the pace of the hearings has remained extremely slow. Only two weeks remain before Congress goes on recess again on June 6. But unmindful of the long delay, the CA transportation committee has decided to invite three more witnesses, all of whom are reportedly abroad.
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What is troubling about this move is the fact that these three witnesses – including Presidential Adviser Gloria Tan-Climaco and Alfonso Liongson, allegedly a consultant of PIATCO – have really nothing to do or to say about the fitness of Alvarez to occupy the top DOTC post.
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Mrs. Climaco will be asked about the controversial provisions of the DOTC-PIATCO concession agreement on NAIA Terminal 3 project. We have questioned this move before on the ground that the CA is not the proper forum to discuss the merits or legality of the NAIA 3 contract, over which Alvarez had no involvement.
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As to Mr. Liongson, PIATCO has stated that the consultancy service it had entered into with him was a private matter that has no bearing on government finances or interests. Whatever amount is being bandied about as the fee to Mr. Liongson is the responsibility of PIATCO, which will not be passed on to the taxpayers. So what is the big fuss?
* * *
It is now becoming apparent that commercial interests have seeped into the CA deliberations. The hearings are slowly being transformed into an inquisition into alleged anomalies in the NAIA 3 contract over which Alvarez had no involvement. The Ombudsman, in its decision dismissing all the charges against the secretary, noted that Alvarez had no hand in the formulation, much less approval, of the NAIA 3 contract. When Alvarez came into the picture, the NAIA 3 contract was a done deal.
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So assuming without admitting that there were irregularities in the deal, why should the matter be the concern of the CA? The proper forum should be the Ombudsman, which had already ruled that the deal is above board and legally binding. The House committee on transportation in the 11th and the present 12th Congresses had also arrived at the same findings.
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From were we sit, we could see that some members of the CA have allowed themselves to be used by vested interests to push their own selfish agenda. Their clients obviously want to derail the NAIA 3 project because it would hurt their business interests. This palpable abuse of power and flagrant disregard of ethical conduct are clearly meant to derail the NAIA 3 project. But in the process, the confirmation of an innocent bystander – and deserving nominee – hangs in the balance.
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With classes about to open, it seems the adoption of the new basic education curriculum (BEC) is still up in the air, with the Senate committee on education asking for a one-year trial period in its implementation. One reason given is that the new curriculum was formulated without adequate consultation and sufficient preparation to ensure its successful implementation. But Education officials have been saying all along that the BEC is actually the result of 16 years of study initiated by past Education officials, plus seven years of nationwide consultations that involved all the 16 regional directors of the department, 145 superintendents and at least 20,0000 principals.
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The DepEd claims having trained 525,984 teachers and officials. Another 1,500 tutors were trained on high school math, and are now conducting school-based training. It says some P1.4 billion worth of textbooks on the BEC have been, or are being delivered to the schools, together with lesson plans. There is growing clamor for its immediate implementation among very authoritative educators, including the Federation of Association of Private School Administrators and the Coordination Council of Private Educational Associations.
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The senators’ action is, therefore, rather puzzling. Stranger still is the fact that among those objecting to its implementation are Senators Angara, Blas Ople and Tessie Oreta, allies of former President Joseph Estrada, who created the Philippine Commission on Educational Reforms (PCER).
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Mr. Estrada formed the PCER on Dec. 7, 1998 "to define a budget-feasible program of reform, identify priority policy recommendations for the executive, and items for a legislative agenda on education." The PCER had Dr. Victor Ordoñez as chair, Dr. Emma Castillo as executive director, 16 commissioners, 11 consultants and two working committees with seven members each that directly discussed the curriculum. Among other things, the PCER recommended that the educational system should focus on the basics of education, and that this must be implemented by 2002.
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This is precisely what the DepEd is doing. But Senators Angara, Ople and Oreta, who were allies of the Estrada administration, are questioning this. Are they saying that the findings and recommendations of this Estrada-created body are wrong?
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Thoughts For Today:

Those who tell you it cannot be done
have always been around.
But throughout history
progress has always come from those
who said it could be done.
* * *
As we grow older, we loosen our grasp
in trying to be perfect in every way.
We realize that it is more important
to be human and happy than to be perfect.
* * *
My e-mail addresses: jaywalker@pacific.net.ph and artborjal@yahoo.com

ALVAREZ BEBOT BLAS OPLE AND TESSIE ORETA BORDER BUT EDUCATION CELLPADDING CENTER MR. LIONGSON WIDTH
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