More than just press releases

March 20, 2008

Yesterday, Speaker Prospero Nograles, based on accounts of several newspapers claimed that as part of his effort to improve the image of the House of Representatives, he would push for making the congressional “pork barrel” system more transparent. In line with his effort, he will request his fellow congressmen to inform anyone who cares to know where the pork barrel funds allocated for the district are going to. While this is laudable, given reports of ghost projects and ghost deliveries, this hardly scrapes the bottom of the “rot” that goes in the implementation of most projects funded by the pork.

It might have gone unnoticed. But it is not uncommon that a new District Engineer usually takes over after a new Congressman assumes his post. The District Engineer, who owes his appointment to the Congressman, is now of course hostage to the biddings of his “real boss”. What follows are rigged biddings, bloated estimates, favored contractors and a patronage laden payroll. (Until now, five months after we have submitted our PMC Report on bloated estimates of DPWH projects implemented in Naga City, no action has been taken by concerned government agencies —Milking them dry, December 26, 2007 ). The fault lies not in the pork but in the manner that it is programmed, dispensed and disbursed. Of course, this will always be denied. But ask anyone who has dealt with DPWH district offices, he will tell you this is public knowledge. It is unfortunate that DPWH bears the brunt of the public’s condemnation(willingly, in many cases, as they also are beneficiaries ). When things go wrong, the Congressman can easily point a finger to DPWH. How can one who is part of the problem be not part of the blame?

If Speaker Nograles is truly interested in refurbishing the image of the House, he may want to consider doing more than just issuing press releases. He can do what no other Speaker has done. He will tell his colleagues in the House to lay off their hands in the implementation of their pork-funded public works projects. Speaker Nograles might lose his post. But he can best be remembered for doing something worthwhile for one of the least admired institutions of our government.

Can the Speaker hack it? Or is this just another press release?

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“Probinsiyanong Intsik”

March 1, 2008

February 24, 2008

Last Friday morning I had to get up at around 12:45 AM because of a reported fire in one of the establishments in the centro of Naga City. It was raining heavily. When I reached the fire scene, it was apparent that the Naga City firemen and the Volunteer Brigades already had the fire under control. There were at least thirty (30) of them coming from the Chin Po Tong Volunteer Fire Brigade, the Naga White Fire Brigade and the local Fire Department. While most of the residents of the city were asleep, these few brave souls put themselves in harms way to save the properties and lives of people they hardly knew.

I personally know almost all of them. Most of them are second generation Filipino-Chinese (like myself) who have chosen this line of work as their civic duty. Some of them have made their own “fortunes”. But at the fire scene, they are all equals simply following the command of their own Fire Marshall. Although we have honored these volunteer groups as Mayoral Awardees, I believe we can not thank them enough. They have not only invested their resources to procure their own equipments but they have also risked their lives and limbs on the many occasions that these were called for. It might have gone unnoticed. But the torch of service had been passed from the first generation to the next.

When Jun Lozada mentioned that he was just an ordinary “probinsiyanong intsik” who wanted to honor the memory of his father, by doing a good turn for our society, I guess he was speaking for most of us. In our way, in our own places, there is that “spirit of a fire brigade volunteer” — wanting to be of service to others and looking for an avenue to honor the memory of those who brought us to where we are now. As I have often told my Chinese friends, I guess we are fortunate not only to have learned from our parents how to manage our own businesses but also learned the importance of taking part in the “people’s business” as well. We have many Jun Lozadas (virtues, warts and all) in many parts of the country. I believe they do love this country as much as others do. They have their own falings as well as saving graces. But like any other Filipino, they will rise up to the occasion when they need to be counted upon.

Jun Lozada has made us proud!