An inconvenient truth

MY FOUR CENTAVOS - Dean Andy Bautista - The Philippine Star

The truth is that when a very important guest (which happens to be the leader of the most powerful country in the planet) comes to town, the visit will cause a lot of inconvenience. Before Air Force One (and its twin decoy) arrived, our air space was cleared (“no fly zone”) for one hour of outgoing and incoming plane traffic. This led to more than 100 international and domestic flights being delayed with our two major carriers, Philippine Air Lines and Cebu Pacific, reporting 49 and 37 delayed flights, respectively. I presume that a similar number of flights were impacted by the departure of Air Force One’s entourage the following day.

Police and MMDA officials had prepared three potential convoy routes from NAIA to Malacañang Palace. With more than 900 personnel deployed, various road blocks, detours and checkpoints were set up to ensure a smooth traffic flow. Of course, tens of thousands of Metro Manila motorists and commuters were affected by these arrangements. In the end, President Obama was whisked by one of the six heliplanes (there also had to be a decoy of course) from the airport to the palace. When asked to comment whether all the police preparations were for naught, Southern Police Chief Superintendent Jose Erwin Villacorte said that the “efforts were not wasted for as long as the VIP was safe.”

Meanwhile, about 100 media people covered the arrival of Air Force One. Just like boarding for a flight to the US, they were instructed to assemble at NAIA Terminal 3 by 10:30 a.m., or three hours before the scheduled touchdown. The news cocks and hens were subjected to three inspections: first, by NAIA security, second by the Philippine PSG and finally, by the US Security Service. Their bags and gear were sniffed by a canine unit and scanned by the Secret Service. Just like school children, they were told not to “make sudden movements nor wander around the tarmac.”

The following morning, since the US head of state had a final function at the American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio, construction workers in two of the nearby buildings were told to go home for the day. I hope that our daily-paid brethren were given their just wage.

Over a month ago, the Supreme Court had scheduled the oathtaking of the 1,174 barristers who successfully hurdled the 2013 bar exams on April 28 at the PICC. However, since Obama was billeted at nearby Sofitel, the high court was compelled to re-set the ceremony to the following Monday, citing “concerns relating to the security of the US President.” Many of the inductees who trooped in from the provinces with their relatives and guests will need to return to the metropolis on May 5.

One wonders whether all of these arrangements orchestrated (read: imposed) by the US Secret Service are appropriate or merely a case of over-acting (OA)? However, it is quite apparent that other visiting heads of state do not get the same royal, fussed up treatment.

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Juxtapose this with the style of the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis. After insisting on paying his own hotel bill after his papal inauguration, he has since exchanged the opulent 12-plus-room papal apartment at the Apostolic Palace for a small studio at the Casa Santa Maria. Similarly, not only has he continued his bus-taking ways with colleagues when attending activities with the Roman Curia or eating with them in the communal refectory, he has also shunned the fortified Mercedes limousine used by his predecessor in favour of a Ford Focus.

During a visit to Brazil, he insisted on carrying his own bag, much to the surprise of his hosts. He also made sure to visit Varginha (dubbed by locals as Brazil’s Gaza strip), a shanty town that is one of the poorest and most crime-infested (and therefore posed the greatest security threat) in Rio de Janeiro.

And during the washing of the feet ritual in the Vatican last Maundy Thursday, he broke tradition by choosing 12 criminals to act as his disciples, including two women, one a Serbian Muslim.

What comes to mind is the biblical passage “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” As the modern-day Caesar, you cannot blame the US President for seeking to propagate the American gospel which aims to preserve the superpower’s role as the world’s policeman.

On the other hand, the refreshing Pope Francis is singing an “out of this world” tune. He is preaching a principle practiced by his namesake saint who championed world peace — the less you inconvenience others, the better.

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Consumer woes:  Remember our advocacy to remove the expiration date in pre-paid mobile phone cards?  Well, the Consumer Welfare and Protection Division of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) headed by Atty. Ramon Nolasco finally responded to our query.  An email response was sent by division staff Victor Gusto last April 22 attaching a copy of an NTC Memorandum dated 7 March 2009 which sanctioned the imposition of expiration dates.  There were no additional explanations given.  

If you will recall, we had cited a 2010 DTI Administrative Order as supported by a 2013 DoJ opinion to argue that it is no longer legal to provide such expiration dates.  Common sense dictates that these subsequent government issuances should, at the very least, be considered and may necessitate a review of the 2009 NTC Memorandum. One gets the impression that contrary to its name, the cited NTC division does not want to champion consumer welfare and protection?  At parang hindi “Gustong” tumulong ni Victor sa mga mamimili?  We will now write NTC head, Atty. Gamaliel Cordoba, to inquire about his position on the matter.

We have also not heard from the Metro Rail Transit regarding their position on the continuing validity of expiration dates contained in their stored value cards.  

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“A great man is always willing to be little.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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