To be served than to serve
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Senator Grace Poe couldn’t have said it better when she labeled the decision and actions of the LTFRB Technical Working Group as nothing less than “Ganti-Gantihan” or vengeful spite. But things are worse than how Senator Poe surmised the attitude and behavior of the TWG members; as political appointees they have in their utterances shown that they no longer hold their position “in service of the nation” or “public service” but rather with a sense of entitlement. They took offense at Angkas Philippines for going to court and seeking judicial relief or judgment on a legal matter. Whatever the bruised egos of the TWG members may think, the laws and Constitution of the Philippines gives Angkas and its officials the right to seek action or wisdom from the courts.

The problem with many political appointees under the Duterte administration is that they have started to think that they too can behave like the President does. To begin with, the President was elected into office, not appointed. Second, with all his bravado, if and when the President’s term is over, he like other presidents before him can and will be held accountable for any abuse of power he may have committed after his period of immunity expires with his term. Unlike the President, his political appointees are NOT immune from suit or legal action at this instance. Their demands for Angkas to withdraw the legal cases is abuse of authority, and their suggestion to blacklist Angkas for not bowing to their wishes shows how badly they misunderstand the nature and the responsibility of the TWG. You’re a working group intended to work out the technicalities, get the data, translate and interpret the information and make objective recommendations about the future of the two-wheeled motorcycle taxi in the Philippines. Any violation incurred by the participants is purely the responsibility of the LTFRB Law Enforcement group, the LTO or the PNP. The fact is a couple of TWG officials have started acting like they were judge, jury and executioner.

Failing to have their way, the TWG now turns around and says; Enough! Probably hoping that by terminating the study, they can terminate Angkas’ brash attitude. What they succeeded in doing was to show the entire Philippines that they were a bunch of Grumpy Old Men who were also “Pikon Talo” or spoiled sport. If it were not for Senators Poe, Go and Marcos, the entire situation could have turned real ugly overnight and might have led to unprecedented rallies, anti-government motorcades and the likes. That one wrong move of the TWG could have put a bad mark on the Duterte administration simply because political appointees in the TWG have forgotten that their first responsibility is to serve the public. Perhaps it is time for Secretary Art Tugade to sit down with Antonio Gardiola and Bert Suansing for an assessment. Has the pressures of the job gotten into their system or has the position gotten into their heads? 

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President Duterte has asked Congress for a supplementary budget of billions of pesos in order to construct major evacuation facilities for regions and provinces perennially affected by typhoons and disasters. That is a good idea, but at the moment, the immediate need is to find sites that can be built into the new townships for Batangas province to replace the 12 towns and parts of two cities that were seriously affected. By “relocation site” I don’t mean tenement housing, Bliss housing for poor people but real townships that are designed to replace the ones we have lost. The government needs to erase the “Bakwit” mindset or references because many of today’s evacuees were productive, self-supporting, taxpaying Batangueños who will not take lightly to being treated as lowly, poor helpless victims. They can do with very little dole out, but they need a starting point.

This is why the Duterte administration should embark on a national housing program that is LGU- based where mayors and local officials must have their own housing programs for their “homeless” constituents. We have all talked about mayors and barangay captains as the number one promoter or coddler of squatters because these are their voting blocks. Well it’s about time we make these same mayors and barangay captains give back through proper housing. The national government as well as leading universities and architectural groups can all be tapped to help develop a nationwide LGU-based and funded housing program. Stop spending money on basketball courts, constant demolishing and re-blocking of roads, and spend all the money on housing that will be typhoon, flood and disaster resistant. If the LGUs build them right, what are the chances that we can cut down damage and reconstruction as well as the need for evacuation centers.

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I hate to knit pick but when the DOH came out with a statement that donations of powdered milk or infant formula would not be accepted, I was reminded of the saying “Paupers can’t be choosers.” I respect the department’s commitment and support for breastfeeding. I have time and again shown my professional support for the campaign. But sometimes, it is best to just shut up or diplomatically explain why, than just saying we won’t accept donations of powdered milk. A number of people I know raised their eyebrows and commented that under the circumstance, powdered milk could be used for many other things. 

Sadly a few days after that issuance, Secretary Francisco Duque came out with an unrelated message, appealing for donors to donate “portalets” or chemically treated toilets. This is something that guys like Duque regularly appeal for every time we face a major disaster. The question is why haven’t they managed to stock up or work with the DOST to design such much needed equipment? There is also the issue of being able to maintain them, which has been debated in the past. You can ask but can you look after them?

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