Let ‘Francis’ do the job
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2020 - 12:00am

Early this week someone sent me a video link and a message claiming “The Tolentinos were forcing business establishments in Tagaytay to open for business.” I know that the Tolentinos as the primary political family in Tagaytay City, have been known for having political will, but I also know they have used their will and position wisely, which is why they have managed to stay in the frontline all these years. So even as I had my doubts about the forced opening, I figured it would not hurt to invite Senator Francis Tolentino to our show AGENDA on Cignal TV so we could discuss all things related to Tagaytay City, particularly the Taal Volcano eruption.

As I suspected, the rumor of “forced openings” was nothing more than fake news. According to Senator Tolentino, the first thing he posted after Taal Volcano erupted was; “Avoid Tagaytay City for the moment.” As for the “forced openings,” Tolentino clarified that a week after the eruption a number of people were telling him that residents, members of media and disaster response teams were having problems finding and buying supplies such as bottled water, toiletries, and basic food items. None of the food joints and the malls were opened and it complicated daily life. So he decided to invite members of the Tagaytay Tourism board and small business owners to ask them to partially open or sell the needed supplies as well as cooked food. Tolentino pointed out that remaining closed for business was not helping the media and the responders and there was a clear need to restore normalcy all along the ridge. The business owners were more than willing to open up and all through the week, almost all the business establishments have continued with their clean up and partial operations.

That small step was certainly a much needed shot in the arm for Tagaytay, but Senator Tolentino could not restrain himself from saying that he wished he could do more than sit inside the Senate hall discussing legislation while his very own kababayans and local constituents were suffering. What aggravates the matter for Tolentino is that he has always been the go to guy or “most experienced” first responder in government. As MMDA chairman, Tolentino was in charge of mobilizing and sending out response teams to all the major disasters such as Ondoy, Yolanda, the various earthquakes in Mindanao and the Visayas as well the overall head for the disaster preparedness plan for Metro Manila in anticipation of the Big One earthquake.  In fact President Duterte pointed out that Sen. Tolentino was the one guy who understands the issue. During the interview, Tolentino categorically stated that he wants to go out into the field maybe even be “in charge” since there is really no face or name representing the national government’s response to the Taal Volcano eruption. The problem is that the Senate leadership might not agree to his idea.

I pointed out that many of his colleagues have, or are pulling “double shifts.” Senator Manny Pacquiao went on leave, trained while working as a Senator for approximately 90 days when he went abroad to carry the Philippine flag and fight in the international boxing ring. Senator Bong Go has continued to work closely and travel with President Rodrigo Duterte while fulfilling his duties as Senator. There will of course be bashers and critics, but who cares?! It would be a bigger loss if all of his experience and knowledge in disaster management simply ends up as words on a proposed law instead of action that is seen, heard and felt by 200,000 plus Batangueños and Caviteños who need to see a familiar face they know and can trust to get the job done. Besides which, Tolentino has very close ties with local politicians from the 12 towns and two cities because he too was mayor of Tagaytay once. I say go for it Mr. Senator!

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The great thing about TV interviews is that you get to ask questions that some people might overlook and be rewarded with a real surprising piece of information.

After calling out some members of the LTFRB Technical Working Group for losing their cool and forgetting they are public servants, our guest coordinators managed to bring in Bert Suansing to shed light on why they’ve been especially touchy or acting like Grumpy Old Men. The first thing we clarified is that contrary to media reports, Suansing is not an Assistant Secretary or Asec at the DOTr or the LTFRB. He is simply a consultant of Secretary Arthur Tugade assigned to look into the motorcycle taxi business model. As for being somewhat of a Grump, I learned that Bert Suansing recently had a heart attack while going up the stairs of the MIAA building where he was to attend a meeting. The cause for his grumpy state of mind clearly has to do with all the meds he has been taking such as blood thinners. I too had two similar madman episodes and had to correct types and dosage of meds for hypertension and blood thinners. 

Now here’s the surprise. After delving into all the different problems related to motorcycle taxis, I decided to know what were the parameters, guidelines and design of the TWG study before the actual study was conducted and how much money did Congress provide the LTFRB/DOTr to hire experts, staff members, researchers etc. Bert Suansing was very straightforward: 0 as in zero, Nada, Wala po. All this time, the DOTr, the LTFRB and the TWG have been borrowing, requesting and expropriating who and what they needed. So in effect, the study to come out is not formal and proper research. Congress and the Senate will end up writing a law, create an industry based on information that is mostly anecdotal, informally gathered and unscientific.  And when shit hits the fan, the politicians chew out the bureaucrats! Only in the Philippines!

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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