Time again for ‘talkatese’
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

If there is one leader here in our country who really walks the talk, maverick Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon fits it to a tee. No one can out talk Gordon, especially on matters that are very close to his heart. Gordon was in his usual self when he was our featured guest last Wednesday in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle, Malate.

We had very lively conversations with Gordon who told us about his previous night’s attendance to the appreciation dinner in honor of former Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Manila Hotel last Tuesday. Together with President Rodrigo Duterte, Gordon was invited to the reception for Mrs. Arroyo under whose term he served as Tourism Secretary during her presidency.

According to Gordon, President Duterte took the occasion to personally seek his support on his administration’s priority to increase the fund allocations for the defense and police establishments in next year’s proposed budget bill that would be submitted in the 18th Congress.

Without going into details, Gordon echoed the President’s concern on the need to improve the capability of both the AFP and the PNP to address the growing threats of terrorism in the country. This was especially in the light of the latest deadly attack in Sulu which became the country’s first-ever case of a Filipino suicide bomber. It was during this dinner appreciation where President Duterte, digressing from his prepared speech, warned about “dangerous times ahead” for the Philippines.

“And one of these days, I will call for a – just – for a time to talkatese and we’ll talk about it because it’s really needed by the country,” the President cryptically said.

The President though stopped short in saying if he would possibly call for a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) or convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss the urgency of these matters. The NSC is the highest body that tackles national security policy issues. Former presidents of the country and leaders of Congress, sit as members of the NSC. The LEDAC, on the other hand, is composed of leaders and selected top members of Congress and the Executive Department. The NSC and the LEDAC are both chaired by the President.

“I don’t think the President wants to be told to convene the NSC or the LEDAC. Suffice it to say, the President would do what needs to be done,” Gordon pointed out.

As senior member of the majority coalition supportive to the administration of President Duterte, Gordon gets to keep his chairmanships of three major committees of the Senate in the 18th Congress. Gordon will continue to chair the powerful Senate blue ribbon committee; the Senate committee on justice and human rights; and the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises.

While he remains part of the pro-administration coalition, Gordon disclosed President Duterte has vetoed one of his pet bills approved during the previous 17th Congress. Gordon’s Senate Bill (SB) No. 1997, or the Regional Investment and Infrastructure Coordinating Hub (RICH) of Central Luzon ended up among the several Congress-approved bills that got vetoed by the President. Approved by the Senate on third and final reading in October last year, the RICH bill of Gordon aimed to bring in jobs and capital to the Central Luzon region and help decongest Metro Manila.

Despite ending up in presidential veto, Gordon is unperturbed and would, in fact, re-file his RICH bill in the 18th Congress. Gordon said he would tweak his new version of the RICH bill to synchronize this with the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program being pursued by the Duterte administration.

As soon as the 18th Congress convenes on July 22, Gordon disclosed, he would call a public hearing to check on how the Land Transportation Office (LTO) would implement the required new plates for motorcycles. Under the law approved by the previous 17th Congress, the LTO was mandated, among other things, to issue new plates to all registered motorcycles. The two-wheel vehicle have grown in numbers as it become the most popular mode of transport due to worsening traffic condition, especially in highly urbanized parts of the country like Metro Manila.

Preferably, Gordon suggested to LTO, the new motorcycles would have reflectorized plate numbers, color-coded, and with minimum characters of 5 numbers or letters, or combination of numbers and letters to facilitate identification of motorcycles in case of accidents and other incidents.

This system proved effective, he cited, during his watch of Olongapo City and Subic Freeport as Mayor and administrator, respectively. Further, he added, it would add deterrence against tandem-riding assassinations or other criminals using motorcycles for speedy get-away from their nefarious trade.

Aside from his official duties at the Senate, Gordon remains actively involved in socio-civic and charity works as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC). Under Gordon’s helm, the PRC currently has 93 blood service facilities, including 27 blood centers, 66 blood collecting units/blood stations and acquired through these years 150 ambulances and thousands of trained first-aiders and rescue volunteers and a hospital ship that could be deployed any time and any where in the Philippines.

The Red Cross has even expanded its services to include free dialysis treatment for indigent patients at its center in Port Area, Manila, Gordon noted. “But the Red Cross does not receive any government funding support. We continue to rely though from generous donors,” he quipped.

Gordon could talk on and on about his other pet bills and priority concerns. I even had to cut in at Gordon, otherwise our Kapihan sa Manila Bay would become another Senate public hearing that he presides.

Levity aside, Gordon’s long track record in public service could enable him to match President Duterte when the time again for “talkatese” is called to take place soon at Malacanang Palace.

RICHARD “DICK” GORDON
Philstar
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