The heat is on
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2019 - 12:00am

With more or less two weeks left in the official campaign period under the timetable set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the heat of competition in the forthcoming May 13 electoral contests has palpably intensified. We have been seeing heavy loads of political advertisements of senatorial candidates now being bombarded upon us while watching television primetime shows as well as hearing it on radio programs.

These political ads on TV and radio are more on promoting the self-proclaimed virtues and accomplishments for many of these senatorial candidates in the coming mid-term elections. At least, that’s the situation at the national level for the May 13 electoral race.

But at the local level, many of the electoral contests all over the country are hotly fought by bitter rival bets. In far-flung places of the Philippines, the so-called “3 G’s” – the short term for guns, goons and gold – are reportedly still at play.

Unlike their fellow politicians in the countryside, local bets in highly urbanized centers may face lesser dangers of “3 G’s.” But certain highly popular local bets, especially here in Metro Manila, are currently being subjected to a very cruel kind of character assassinations.

In such situation now is Quezon City (QC) mayoral candidate Joy Belmonte. Now on her third and last term as Vice Mayor, Belmonte’s outstanding track record in public office is now being sullied by malicious attempts obviously by rival camps in the race to become the next Mayor of QC.

Before anything else, let me make this full disclosure. Belmonte is the sister of our boss, Miguel Belmonte, president and chief executive officer at The Philippine Star. The 49-year-old Vice Mayor Belmonte is the youngest of the four children of QC Congressman and former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

For the past 24 years that I have been employed at The STAR, never had the name of any member of the Belmonte family, including Vice Mayor Joy, linked to any violent incident nor any case of corruption nor abuse while in office. 

 The most vicious black propaganda to date were loose talks and rumors being fanned to link the Vice Mayor to the murder of Barangay Bagong Silangan chairwoman Criselle Beltran last January.

It even took Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde to personally – and not just officially – come out with public attestation that Vice Mayor Belmonte’s name never cropped up in this murder case. A veteran crime investigator himself, the PNP chief vouched for Belmonte who could not possibly be involved in the killing of Beltran who was running for a congressional seat against Annie Susano and Precious Castelo. Albayalde branded the politics-tainted allegation against Belmonte as nothing but election-related attack.

And who could possibly profit from such obvious fake news and the lowest form of negative campaign? Just asking.

Belmonte’s brand of public service-focused politics is the reason why she enjoys the big edge as the QC mayoral candidate of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) headed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. Rivals of Belmonte have only empty bags of dirty tricks to throw against her.

We could only pray these attacks against the QC Mayor-to-be would eventually end up in power failure when truth comes out against their outright lies.

Speaking of power failures, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian revealed very disturbing status of the power supply situation following the breakdown of certain base-load plants jolted by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Metro Manila and several Luzon provinces. Gatchalian was our featured guest in the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle, Malate last Wednesday.

Just before the Holy Week, brownouts were experienced in Metro Manila and the Luzon grid was placed under red alert when several power plants conked out while others went on alleged unscheduled shutdown.

Thus, Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, is not taking hook, line and sinker statements of assurances made by officials from both government and private sector that there will be enough power supply all over the Philippines come election day on May 13. That is, if there would be no base-load plant that will go on unexpected shutdown.

In particular, Gatchalian questioned why such official guarantee on the adequacy of power supply on election day was premised on such a “caveat.” Since there would be no work in all government and private offices, not to mention the fact it is vacation time in all schools at all levels, naturally, there would be less demand and use of electricity on election day, Gatchalian pointed out.

 But how come the assurances given by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the power producers were based on this “caveat?” Gatchalian rhetorically asked. This is because, he cited, there is a very thin reserve capacity or available power supply that can go on stream should a breakdown or shutdown of any base-load plant and cause power supply gap to meet power demand. 

From initial inquiries done by the Senate committee on energy, there are about 600-megawatt of power supply that were not delivered on time by contractors due to delays in government permits and other bureaucratic requirements.

Gatchalian announced his plans to push for a legislation that would mandate specific set of fines and other penalties if private electric utilities fail to comply with their power supply contracts with the government.

To this end, Gatchalian vowed to push for a new law, if not an amendment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Highly educated and actually trained in managing business, the Senator is not one really who would fall to such false claims on power supply situation in the country.

Gatchalian suspects there could be attempts to manipulate the power supply picture in the country. He lauded the initiatives of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) now looking into allegations of collusion among market players in the power industry.

The heat is on but it’s not all due to the country’s summer season.

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