Twisting Solomon’s arm
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 18, 2017 - 4:00pm

I have just spent the last 24 hours walking around, eating, swimming, or sleeping on an island that has the longest strip mall-tiangge I have ever seen in the Philippines. When you walk the two-kilometer plus white sand beach you actually walk through a series of restaurants, fastfood chains, hotels as well as massage areas by the beach. At night you will see 3 to 4 transgender prostitutes every 100 meters generally standing in the poorly lit places so potential “Johns” or customers won’t quickly notice they are “Bekis” or “X-Men.”

The nighttime tourists on the other hand go from bar to bar walking around like mall shoppers by the thousands mostly from Korea or the Philippines. The music in the air is provided by loud bands, folk singers and DJs with loud sound system playing every 50 meter to 100 meters unmindful of the noise pollution and disturbance they create for people staying in the nearby hotels. Mixed into the scene are henna and tattoo outlets or puestos, while every 200 meters or so you come across indigenous natives begging for money or food. Then you notice merchants huddled in groups of three or four selling pearls and trinkets claiming to be former residents of Marawi.

This Kilometers long Tiangge actually sits right on the very spot where the national government kicked out the first entrepreneurs on the beach. They were the people who were there before the invasion from Imperial Manila arrived. They were there with their authentic native structures made of bamboo and Nipa. Now it’s mostly concrete and plastic and wall-to-wall buildings.

This is Boracay today, an undeniable ecological and tourism disaster that is being promoted as the most beautiful island in the World. What it has become is an “over-populated” and traffic-congested area producing waste of every kind, but because it generates billions of pesos, no one is saying or doing much to get control of the situation. This is the same thing that happened to the country’s Summer Capital: Baguio City that simply degenerated environmentally for lack of a real plan and political will. How many more years can Boracay survive being the 24/7 strip-mall by the beach? Does the government even give a damn about saving Boracay from dom?

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President Rodrigo Duterte is once again being “forced” by circumstance to make a Solomonic decision and once again it is to decide who should be the rightful “Administrator” or person in charge of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority or SBMA.

On the first instance, political appointee and ex-Barangay Chairman Martin Diño caused a bit of confusion and a stir when as Chairman of the board of SBMA, he issued an Office Memo declaring he was appointing himself as concurrent Administrator of SBMA not realizing he did not know what he was doing. As a result, the Office of the President had to issue a formal letter informing Martin Diño he could not take over the position or powers of SBMA Administrator because only the President of the Philippines can appoint the Administrator of the SBMA.

That apparently was not enough to make Diño back off or realize that his supreme sacrifice of giving up his slot as a Presidential candidate to Digong Duterte does not automatically translate to qualification and competency to be the Administrator of SBMA nor does it automatically win support among the President’s advisers in order to get their endorsement. In fact, getting the position of Chairman of the Board was extremely if not questionably generous of the President since Diño suffered in comparison to past officials of the SBMA in terms of experience, training and political power and roots in the region. 

Nonetheless that has not stopped Diño from continuing to aspire for the position of SBMA Administrator and has consequently been at odds or in conflict with the new SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Apparently no one has pointed out to Diño that when then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued an Executive order splitting the offices or position into two, it was for the purpose of check and balance and oversight, which automatically prevents Diño from holding both offices.

In my last visit to Subic I was told that there is now a feud among Board members mostly versus Diño and that the matter has also caught the attention of local politicians as well as members of Congress and the Senate and National Media. Unfortunately all that negative publicity has been at the expense of the Office of the President that now looks unable to control or discipline Diño and his opponents.

Given how pre-occupied the President has been, as well as his track record of instantaneous ejection of undesirables from his government, I don’t see it as being weak or indecisive. Either the President is simply busy with liberating Marawi City or like the Lawyer that he is, Digong might just be compiling enough evidence or complaints before acting on the matter. That is what happened to several political appointees who were shown the door only after there was enough clamor to kick them out.  

Chairman Diño is undoubtedly a bold, courageous and ambitious man, but as a leader he should be the first to humbly give way to the President’s desire or choice —even if he sincerely believes that he can do the job or thinks that he is qualified. If he would be an Administrator, Diño should be the first to respect the rules and procedures and boundaries of authority where he would be king. Appreciate what you already have, excel where you have been blessed with opportunity and if the position is yours, no man, woman or politician can stop that.

It would be foolhardy for Diño to directly or indirectly pressure President Duterte to make a choice the same way two women forced Solomon to decide. If Diño ends up losing the battle, he loses his position and any and all his relations in government will undoubtedly be hit as well. Better the bird in hand than two in the bush.

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