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Giant billboards fall only on ordinary folk

- Federico D. Pascual Jr. () - October 14, 2008 - 12:00am

JUDGMENT DAY: As many people had feared would happen sooner or later, several giant billboards along EDSA fell yesterday during a downpour, injuring four persons and snarling traffic.

The head of the Metro Manila Development Authority sidewalk clearing operations, said a Jollibee billboard that fell on a St. Jude bus was oversized, measuring over 80 feet tall. So who allowed that billboard in the first place — and for how much?

He said the public works department, the advertising agencies that put them up, and the owner of the building where the St. Jude bus terminal was located should be held liable. That is, if the victims can wait till Judgment Day.

We probably can expect real action on this billboards menace only if a billboard falls on a son or daughter of a senator or a member of the First Family zigzagging through EDSA escorted by screaming police cars.

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EXTORTION?: Exactly the same public safety concerns were debated lengthily when big billboards also collapsed and caused considerable damage last year while typhoon “Milenyo” was blowing through the metropolis.

The public works department then went through the motions of removing the atrocious billboards, particularly those that were damaged. But when the furor died down, the eternal billboards reared their ugly heads again as if nothing happened.

Give this latest “falling billboards” incident a few more days and it, too, will be forgotten — until more of these man-made hazards again fall and kill more people.

The callousness of officials regulating the billboards business is so brazen that one suspects that supposed safety crackdowns are nothing but extortion operations.

Related to this, remember when the MMDA made a big to-do removing tarpaulin ads on posts and other structures of the MRT line? The same tarpaulins, and more, are back. What was the price of the comeback?

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TRIVIALIZED: There was no need for businessman Joey de Venecia III to file an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Arroyo just to catch attention and enhance his chances of becoming senator in 2010.

It’s not good form to try raising one’s political stock by bringing down somebody. What he should do, probably with the help of his father, is draw up a doable legislative agenda that is credible and compelling enough to catapult him to the Senate.

Impeachment, an extreme remedy against constitutional officials beyond the pale of normal court processes, is a serious matter. It should not be trivialized or misused as a political tool.

Section 2 of Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) of the Constitution says impeachment is called for only in cases of “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

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NO PROOF: The complaint cited supposed offenses allegedly committed by President Arroyo related to the aborted National Broadband Network agreement with China, the fertilizer fund scandal, the Northrail project, electoral fraud and human rights violations.

There have been the usual loose talk and innuendoes, but until yesterday, nobody has presented solid evidence directly linking President Arroyo to high crimes related to those issues. Impeachment is no fishing expedition.

We also know by now that there was no basis for De Venecia’s fear that the House leadership was blocking his early filing. He had theorized, wrongly, that Speaker Prospero Nograles wanted to give way to a “weaker” complaint so as to block other cases.

De Venecia said Saturday that they might not get enough votes to carry the impeachment complaint, but that it was necessary to file it anyway so as to tell the President that her critics are watching her.

Using impeachment just to deliver that kind of juvenile message?

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PIPE DREAM: Everybody knows that the younger De Venecia blew the whistle on the NBN deal only because he failed to get the fat contract himself.

Former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., a staunch ally of President Arroyo until his son’s sourgraping over his loss of the NBN contract led to an acrimonious parting of ways, said he would stay way from the deliberation so as not to be misunderstood.

The Pangasinan lawmaker said, however, that he was supporting his son’s “search for truth and justice.”

The problem is that different people have different handles on the truth, and the De Venecias do not have a monopoly of truth.

This early, a more realistic Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. is saying that impeaching President Arroyo remains a “pipe dream.”

Not because Pimentel thinks she is innocent, but because she has the captive number in the House of Representatives to block the complaint’s progressing on to the Senate.

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NOLI IN FRONT: Vice President Noli de Castro was reported to have said he was not running for reelection.

Of course. Why would he remain in the No. 2 spot when he knows very well that with the way the political picture is shaping up, he might just end up president? Stranger things have happened.

Despite his association with President Arroyo, whose approval rating is negative, De Castro is able to maintain his overall lead in popularity surveys.

To us who do not believe in table surveys — tailor-made to suit certain agenda, usually for a price — De Castro’s lead does not mean a thing. But the reality is that many people get swayed by publicized survey results.

So, all you aspirants for president, better watch De Castro. No, do not look for him on your rear-view mirror. He is in front. Way ahead.

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ePOSTSCRIPT: Read current and old POSTSCRIPTs at www.manilamail.com. Email feedback to fdp333@ yahoo.com

ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICERS BILLBOARDS DE CASTRO DE VENECIA DE VENECIAS FIRST FAMILY PRESIDENT PRESIDENT ARROYO ST. JUDE
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