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Questionable dole program

THE Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group claims to have shortened the Edsa traffic gridlock by 10 minutes. Big deal.

What the people want is for the HPG to make Edsa traffic run smoothly as it should and prevent the nightmarish experience of spending hours going to and from their destinations.

It will take time for the HPG to improve the traffic situation on Edsa. How long must we wait? And for how long will the HPG do the work of the Metro Manila Development Authority?

At the Balintawak market chokepoint, for instance, sidewalk vendors have been banned from peddling their goods outside the market. It has been done more than a dozen times before, but the vendors have just kept coming back.

I am afraid this is just ningas-cogon mentality, like President Aquino’s mantra for change. Santa Banana, the more they speak of change, the more thing remain the same.

* * *

Malacañang finally admitted that the President Aquino’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program is faulty, so much so that there are many beneficiaries of the dole who should not be there. And then, Palace spokesman Sonny Coloma claims the management of the program by Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman is good. That’s the kind of Palace spokesmen for you.

The Asian Development Bank has found in a survey that a big percentage of the CCT beneficiaries, which is supposed to send children of the poor to school and avail themselves of health care, are not poor at all.

Government should not just rely on the dole program to solve poverty and joblessness. The best long-term solution is job creation. We must make the country more competitive and open our doors to more foreign investments in industries and agriculture. That would mean amendments in the 1987 Constitution lifting economic restrictions.

But then, that would also mean opening competition to President Aquino’s businessmen friends who now have the monopoly of the economy. Now you know why the President is against lifting economic restrictions.

* * *

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has asked the Supreme Court to reverse its decision. She claims that the grant of bail to Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile is a mockery of justice. She cites three reasons: partiality to the rich and powerful, violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, and the fact that Enrile himself did not raise the lack of flight risk and his frail health. All these parrot the dissenting opinion of Justice Marvic Leonen, who with four others did not concur with the majority.

No doubt, the Ombudsman has the right to petition the Supreme Court to reverse its majority decision on the grant of bail to Enrile on humanitarian considerations. But, as a lawyer myself, I have always been of the belief that “Dura lex sed lex.” (The law is hard, but it is the law.)

For the Ombudsman to parrot a lone dissenting opinion raises the question: Should we not respect whatever the Supreme Court rules when it’s the Court of Last Resort? Why rely on the dissenting opinion of one justice?

I believe that aside from humanitarian considerations, the lack of evidence in Enrile’s case was also considered in the grant of bail.

There’s also the question of presumption of innocence, and the need for proof beyond reasonable doubt to convict anybody of a crime.

I cannot predict how the majority of the justices will react to the Ombudsman’s petition, but I believe there’s need to put the issue of grant of bail for Enrile by the Supreme Court to rest.

* * *

It has been more than three decades since the Westinghouse Nuclear Reactor case against Marcos crony Herminio Disini, who died two years ago, came to fore.

Unfortunately, peripheral issues on the case remain unresolved.

A petition for certiorari by the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Republic of the Philippines is now pending against Jesus P. Disini before the 7th Division of the Sandiganbayan, a case that originated when Disini filed against the government for the payment of attorney’s fees and damages for defendants’ alleged breach of an immunity agreement in return for his testimony in Pittsburg, USA, Geneva, Switzerland and  Jersey City, USA.

The PCGG and the Republic of the Philippines, however, subpoenaed Disini to appear in the Sandiganbayan criminal case against Herminio Disini et al. Jesus refused to testify invoking his immunity agreement, but the PCGG instead revoked the agreement, compelling Disini to file a case for Certiorari with the Supreme Court.

On June 22, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled: “The Court should not allow the Republic to put it bluntly, to double cross Disini. The Immunity Agreement was a result of a long drawn out process of negotiations with each party trying to get the best concession out of it...”

After the promulgation of the Supreme Court decision, Disini was included as one of the accused in the Sandiganbayan criminal case, which involved the corporation of Herminio Disini. A hold-departure order was even issued against Jesus.

However, the case was dismissed upon the death of Marcos. The Supreme Court  declared that it could be refiled with the Regional Trial Court of Makati because the alleged crime was committed in Makati. The Supreme Court denied a Motion for reconsideration.

Thus, the Republic and the PCGG filed for certiorari with the Sandiganbayan where it is now pending. 

I find all these questionable.

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