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Opinion

Welcome Pope Francis

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto M. Maceda - The Philippine Star

We join the 81 million Filipino Catholics in warmly welcoming Pope Francis.

Pope Francis arrives at 5:45 p.m. today at the Villamor Air Base then proceed to the Apostolic Nunciature, of the Vatican Embassy on Taft Avenue.

He arrived from Colombo, Sri Lanka, a country recovering from two-and-a-half decades of ethnic and religious civil war, where he spent 3 days, capped by the canonization of Fr. Joseph Vas.

He was met at the Bandaranaike International Airport by newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena, with 40 elephants dressed in colorful costumes lining the airport road behind him.

Only 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population are Catholics, since the members of the Sinhalese majority are typically Buddhist, and Tamils for the most part Hindu.

President Aquino will lead the welcomers at Villamor Air Base.

He will receive Pope Francis at Malacañang on Friday, together with government officials and diplomatic corps. The Pope will proceed to the Manila Cathedral for a Holy Mass with bishops, priests and consecrated persons. Finally, he will head to the Mall of Asia Arena for a meeting with families.

On Saturday, he will travel to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte where he will lead a Mass; meet one million Typhoon Yolanda survivors and families, and religious followers at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport; and a 12-kilometer motorcade from airport to Archbishop’s Residence in Palo.

On Sunday, he will proceed to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where he will meet with leaders of different religious and youth groups. He then goes to the Luneta Quirino Grandstand where Concluding Mass will be held.

President Aquino has taken a personal hand in the security preparations.

The Vatican and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle have requested that the lunch of the Pope with 30 Typhoon Yolanda and Bohol earthquake survivors be private and not covered by media.

Singer songwriter Jamie Rivera will sing the theme song “We Are All God’s Children,” which she wrote, on two papal visit events — at the meeting with families on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena and the gathering for the youth at the UST.

Mercado accused of graft, plunder

Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, a Binay ally-turned-whistleblower, has been accused before the Ombudsman of plunder by civic leader Louis “Barok” Biraogo.

Biraogo, in his complaint, charged Mercado of receiving P80 million in bribes, for his participation in the construction of Phase 1 and 2 of the Makati City Hall and Parking Building II.

Biraogo stressed that Mercado’s admission against interest at the Senate hearing was already an evidence to warrant the filing of a case of plunder against him.

Mercado’s questionable properties, include a garden hotel and resort in La Jala Coron, Palawan; Villa-resort Villa Juanita in Coron, Palawan; Grand Villa Pateros in Barangay Aguho, Pateros; Grand Villa and Butterfly Center in Los Banos, Laguna; Hunter Valley plantation and resort in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija; Poultry farm in Palayan, Nueva Ecija; properties in West Rembo, Makati City and in Laur, Nueva Ecija and others, were funded by public funds.

“It is doubtful how the children and Mercado’s spouse, who appear to be owners and stockholders of various Mercado corporations and properties, have the financial capacity to own them,” said Biraogo.

He also clarified that he has no connections with the Binays, in fact, he said he filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to bar members of political dynasties, including the Binays, from running in the 2013 elections.

SC favors Malacañang

The SC declined to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the fare hikes imposed by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1 and 2.

It directed the respondents, led by Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, to submit their answer to the four petitions, within 10 days.

The SC also dismissed the 2 petitions filed by former Iloilo Congressman Augusto Syjuco – to hold the P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget and to have the supplemental budget for 2014 declared unconstitutional – for lack of merit.

He stressed that the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) still contained pork barrel or lump-sum allocations that is similar to DAP and PDAF funds, which the SC had declared unconstitutional.

Syjuco said the National Expenditure Program (NEP) and 2015 GAA bill were unconstitutional because they redefined the term “savings” to circumvent the SC decision against the acts and practices under the DAP.

Tidbits

Six hundred portalets will be set up at the Luneta during Sunday’s mass, considering the big crowds that gather at the Luneta on different occasions, starting with the Translacion of the Black Nazarene; the DPWH should build at least 20 multidoor toilets on the left and right side of the Luneta.

Steel and concrete barriers have been installed on Roxas Boulevard, preventing people from approaching the popemobile.

The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardees for 2014 are Mayor Marlyn B. Alonte-Naguiat for Government and Public Service; Jessie Pascual P. Bitog for Agricultural Engineering; Ma. Doris C. Dumlao for Journalism; Mayor Vincent Franco D. Frasco for Public Administration; John Mark S. Velasco for Medical Science and Public Health; and Oscar Franklin B. Tan for Law.

Murad Ebrahim, head of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the Moro rebels are also welcoming Pope Francis, saying the papal visit “is significant and meaningful.”

AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING BIRAOGO LUNETA MALL OF ASIA ARENA MERCADO NUEVA ECIJA POPE FRANCIS PRESIDENT AQUINO SRI LANKA VILLAMOR AIR BASE
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