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Opinion

Sotto, Lacson can crush crooks in Congress

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Senate President Tito Sotto’s return of P20-million bribe from a congressman set the standard of his limited tenure. It meant that he would ensure legislation based on merit and not money.

If he names and charges the briber, Sotto would set a lasting precedent. He would scare crooked lawmakers from assuming everyone else is, like them, ready to sell public interest for personal gain.

Sotto’s closest pal in the chamber, Senator Ping Lacson, recounted Tuesday the bribery attempt. It happened early last year, when Sotto was new in the highest Senate post. A congressman had sent P20 million to Sotto’s office in relation to a franchise bill being deliberated on plenary. Lacson called it “lobby money.” It was bribe, plain and simple.

(Lobbying, or presenting one’s cause in Congress, is legal. Lobbyists are required to formally register. It’s cash changing hands under the table and perks, like free travel and lavish gifts, that give lobbying a bad name.)

Sotto confirmed the incident to reporters. He sent the money back, he said, but did not identify the culprit.

Every year during debates on the national budget bill, Lacson and Sotto partner to stave off pork barrel inserters in the House of Reps. Sometimes they name the culprits. Oftentimes the pork ringleaders stand up publicly to defend their multibillion-peso commissionable pet projects as if there’s nothing immoral about them.

Legislators bribing each other was reported ever since Congress was revived in 1987. Most prominent were during investigations and debates on sin taxes, pollution, mining, public utilities and road works.

Opposers of the rackets are reluctant to expose the crooks, however. The votes of the baddies are also needed to enact good laws.

Lacson and Sotto can break the impasse. They can indict briber-colleagues at the Ombudsman if not the Congress committee on ethics. Reforming the legislature would boost their planned presidential and VP tandem in 2022.

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Women mayors and governors are booming globally this 21st century. A Japanese study attributes it to maternal instinct. More than males, females as local government executives are sharper at innovating to provide basic services.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay is a prime example in the Philippines. Her focus since election into office in 2016 has been on more effective ways to meet the foremost needs of home life, like incomes for adults, education for youngsters, telecoms for the family. Those are among her reports on the city’s 351st anniversary last week.

Her initiatives have caught the attention of heads of LGUs and captains of industry abroad. Last month, she was a featured speaker at an online session hosted by the Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre in Malaysia: “Nurturing Human Assets for Urban Excellence.” Discussants included the mayor of Kuala Lumpur, the principal policy advisor of Local Government New Zealand and representatives from the University of Seoul and The United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific.

Binay shared via teleconference the results of her project “Dyipni Maki.” Launched in September 2020, it brings mobile learning hubs to students with no access to the internet and distance learning devices. At the same time, it gives displaced jeepney drivers and teachers a steady source of income.

Dozens of jitneys are dispatched Mondays to Saturdays to barangays. Each Dyipni Maki is equipped with laptops and internet connections, books and other learning materials.

Drivers who lost jitney routes due to pandemic lockdown and less ridership are paid as learning implementers. With face-to-face classes still infeasible and marginalized students lacking the resources to study online, the drivers bring the school to them with the help of teachers who would have otherwise been jobless as well. Disruption of learning and livelihoods due to the pandemic is lessened.

Conferees admired Binay’s flexibility and imaginativeness. They noted that, through engagement with communities, stakeholders and the private sector, she saw opportunities and adaptations.

Lately, Dyipni Maki also helps accelerate Makati’s COVID-19 vaccination program by assisting residents unable to register online. Speaking of vaccination, Binay is keen to immunize everybody in Makati, including transient daytime workers.

For that, she melds pandemic response with her ongoing buildup of Makati as the country’s first smart city. Free WiFi in all public places, parks, school campuses and barangays hasten delivery of services and improve government processes, she stated in a recent webinar of the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute. “Aside from cash assistance to homes and shops affected by the global health crisis, the portal allows Makatizens, non-resident workers and business owners to register for free vaccination – whether for flu, pneumonia or COVID-19,” Binay said.

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Catch “Sapol” radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).  Paperback copies of “Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” can be delivered to you by 8Letters Bookstore and Publishing. To order:https://shopee.ph/GOTCHA-by-Jarius-Bondoc-i.264837039.3870254862. “Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity”. Simply subscribe to my newsletter at: https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

PING LACSON TITO SOTTO
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