Defining months

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Presidencies can be defined by their final months, with major problems tarnishing the achievements of the early years.

Ferdinand Marcos, for all his brilliance, is remembered for the abuses of the dictatorship. Corazon Aquino nurtured the fragile democracy restored in 1986 and repelled power grabs, but the crippling blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in her final months was seen as an example of weak governance under her watch.

Fidel Ramos is remembered for being “Steady Eddie,” although his steady hand at the nation’s helm probably made Pinoy voters long for the unpredictable excitement that a professional entertainer like Joseph Estrada could provide.

As we know, what Erap touted as the greatest performance of his life bombed at the box office. His successor rose to power on such high expectations disappointment was probably inevitable. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stayed in office for nine years, a large part of which is remembered for a string of corruption scandals.

Those scandals, combined with the death of Cory Aquino, propelled Noynoy Aquino to power. But in P-Noy’s final year, his daang matuwid campaign spiel has worn thin as people see that those close to him are allowed to take the crooked path or daang baluktot. Daang matuwid is starting to be seen as a mantra of hypocrites, which is now past its use-by date.

P-Noy’s final months will also be remembered for blackouts, this time in Mindanao, with the problem so serious certain sectors have expressed concern that the outages could lead to a failure of elections.

The unreliable power supply has been aggravated by the bombing of transmission towers across Mindanao – a total of 18 as of the other day. The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines is reportedly being prevented from repairing its towers. Combined with the predicted stronger-than-usual El Niño this year, which will affect hydropower, the Mindanao vote is in peril.

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And of course P-Noy’s final months will be remembered for the despicable services in the transport sector.

These days commuters take the Metro and Light Railway Transit with a prayer that the trains won’t break down again and force them to take the bus.

This is also the first time ever that motorists have had to wait for up to two years for vehicle license plates, registration stickers and driver’s license cards.

Motorists wouldn’t mind so much if payments for undelivered items aren’t collected by the Land Transportation Office. And if they aren’t required to keep going back to LTO branches, waiting in line in open areas only to be told that the items they have paid for still remain unavailable.

One of our employees was issued in mid-2015 a provisional driver’s license – a piece of paper stamped with a date when he should return for the license card, which was the other day. He did as instructed and went to the LTO branch in his area, where the slip of paper was given another stamp stating that it would serve as a provisional license “until such time that the DL card is released.” When he asked when he would get the card, he was told to just wait for a news announcement.

A woman who has waited longer, since March last year, had a similar experience when she returned to the LTO branch in her area the other day.

Disappointment over crummy LTO service cuts across all classes, from jeepney and truck drivers who need professional licenses to the affluent who want to be able to drive when they are overseas and are worried that those provisional slips of paper won’t be recognized abroad.

We long for the days when the LTO received ISO certification and renewing a license took less than half an hour. But that was before daang sarado.

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Even services in the Social Security System (SSS) can use improvement, and I’m not referring to the debate on whether or not the monthly pension should be raised.

A retiree was surprised when he stopped receiving starting last November the monthly benefits he had been receiving since his wife’s death.

When a messenger went to the SSS main office to follow up the benefits on the retiree’s behalf, the messenger was told that perhaps the pensioner did not comply with the requirements. Later the messenger was told that perhaps the fault was with the bank where the payments were coursed by the SSS.

But being a lawyer, the pensioner had sent the messenger with official certifications from the bank about the dates of payment, and certifications from the SSS itself that he had complied with all requirements.

Finally, the staff admitted that the fault was on the part of the SSS. It was attributed to a “systems glitch,” but the pensioner is wondering whether the real reason is corruption and he has been robbed of P3,687.53 a month.

He’s lucky he knows how to go about filing a complaint, and he lives in Metro Manila and can send a messenger to deal with the SSS at the main office, the only place where pension complaints are received. What about other elderly pensioners living in the Visayas and Mindanao or other areas of Luzon without the knowledge or the means to follow up complaints?

The worst aspect of the bad service, for an administration that claims to tread the straight path, is the suspicion that public funds are being misused and that sweetheart deals awarded to favored contractors are causing the abominable service.

Motorists in particular are wondering where the money paid for undelivered license plates, vehicle registration stickers and driver’s license cards has gone. Have motorists paid for ghost items? Is the money earning interest somewhere, and who is benefiting from the interest?

P-Noy is now on legacy mode. He wouldn’t want a legacy of stalled trains, cars without plates, drivers without license cards, and horrendous traffic jams along daang sarado.

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CORRECTION: The elderly beggar often seen near Ayala Alabang does not earn up to P3,000 to P5,000 daily, but she can make such amounts on a rare good day, usually during the Christmas or Lenten break.












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