“ The President admits that the fight against corruption cannot be won overnight. He has been working to “make change permanent” by continuing his legacy even after he leaves Malacañang.”
by Ducky Paredes
According to President-Mayor Joseph Estrada as the former President likes to be called nowadays, he can finally look forward to getting a good night’s sleep after seeing an improvement in the city’s financial standing.
When he took over as mayor in 2010, the city had a deficit of P4.4 billion. Unfazed, he told barangay officials then, that Manila would be debt-free by 2015.
“I have to admit that sleep rarely visited me since I inherited Manila’s fiscal problems. I could not sleep even after taking sleeping pills,” he said at the two-day Manila City Development Council convention held in Baguio City.
Thanks to improved revenue collections—largely due to updated fair marketvalues for real property and a new revenue code—Manila’s financial standing is looking better, an achievement Estrada trumpeted in his state of the city address earlier this year.
With the city back in the black, public gymnasiums, sport centers and swimming pools can once again be used by residents free of charge starting in January. The city government began charging a fee for the use of these facilities when Estrada took office in 2010.
During the Baguio convention, Estrada told Manila barangay officials that the city government now has “greater room to finally implement the projects and programs that have been shelved for years, [with] emphasis, of course, on those that will benefit our 896 barangays and their combined 1.8 million residents.”
One of these was the release of the annual city aid fund from 2012 to 2014 for every barangay amounting to P1,000 yearly. Next year, the annual allocation would go up to P12,000 on the strength of a city ordinance.
Msnils will was also open a dialysis center in the next few days for the city’s indigent residents.
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Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado is back from the the United States and is ready to face his former friend and ally, Vice President Jejomar Binay, for a debate.
“I’m back and I like to reiterate my challenge to the Vice President for a face-off or debate to know who is telling the truth and who is lying,” Mercado told the Inquirer on Tuesday morning.
Mercado, who issued the challenge while he was abroad, said Binay could name the place and the time for the debate.
From the way that Binay has been avoiding debate challenges — from Senator Trillanes and others — there seems little chance that he would accept the challenge from his former ally.
The former vice mayor left for the United States after a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee suspended its hearing on the alleged overprice of the Makati City Building II, a carpark built when Binay was mayor of Makati.
Mercado has provided testimonies and documents to the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee linking Binay, who has declared his intention to run for President in 2016, to alleged anomalies.
Apart from the allegedly overpriced P2.28-billion carpark, Binay has been accused of owning a 350-hectare high-end farm in Rosario, Batangas province, and condominium units in Makati through dummies. The Vice President has denied the charges.
Away for more than two weeks, Mercado arrived on Monday evening on board Philippine Airlines from Los Angeles.
Mercado insists that his travel was personal and had nothing to do with Binay.
Thinking that Mercado had more goods against the Vice President, the latter’s political spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said Mercado was a “proven perjurer who has nothing good to say.”
“The Vice President is too busy working to be distracted,” Remulla said in a text message.
Asked whether Binay had anything to worry about and whether he planned to take any legal action against Mercado, Remulla said: “He’s confident of the end game toward Malacañang.”
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The President has vowed that more charges will be filed and more personalities will be jailed in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“We should emphasize: These are only the initial cases filed; more will come once the necessary evidence is assembled,” Aquino said in a speech during the 2nd State Conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) in Malacañang.
In his speech, the President promised that those who “conspired to steal” public funds will be made accountable.
“Prominent lawmakers, former heads of GOCCs [government-owned and -controlled corporations] and government agencies, and others in the private sector who conspired to steal from the people through the Priority Development Assistance Fund [PDAF] have been arrested and are now undergoing the appropriate processes to determine accountability,” Aquino said.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are now in jail in connection with alleged misuse of their PDAF or pork barrel.
Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and the lawmakers’ subordinates were similarly ordered arrested for their participation in the P10-billion PDAF racket.
In June this year, Napoles submitted affidavits containing the names of 20 senators and 100 congressmen, many of whom incumbent, who allegedly benefited from the PDAF, before it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year.
The camp of principal witness, Benhur Luy, feared that such long list of possible respondents could drag the case for at least a decade.
Napoles’ scheme involved siphoning off PDAF to bogus non-government organizations that she herself had put up.
Aquino, also during the UNCAC meeting, said his administration has set up a budget scheme that will prevent similar abuses.
“There are new measures to speak of as well. For instance, one of the innovations we introduced in the budgeting process this year is the GAA [General Appropriations Act]-as-release-document system. Through this system, the budget serves as the release document itself the moment it is signed into law. This meant that, as soon as 2014 began, the majority of allocations were released to agencies, enabling them to begin implementing projects, thus cascading benefits down to our people, at the soonest possible time,” he explained.
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The President admits that the fight against corruption cannot be won overnight. He has been working to “make change permanent” by continuing his legacy even after he leaves Malacañang.
“With the 2016 elections not too far off, let us always remember that we are working to make change permanent, to make the commitment to good governance a commitment that lasts beyond this administration,” he said.
“We are working to rid the Philippines of the corruption that has tainted its reputation and plagued it for so long; we are working to institutionalize a legacy that finds its roots in the mindset of our countrymen, who will never again settle for anything less than true public service,” Aquino added.
The President narrated how “methodical” the “straight path” has been for him, noting that “each hindrance would have to be dismantled before we could make true progress.”
“As you may remember, the first Executive Order I signed created a Truth Commission intended to investigate allegations of graft and corruption, as the first step toward accountability. We all know unfortunately, this was blocked by the Supreme Court, which was then led by then-Chief Justice Corona. Yet we persisted.
“Only 6.5 percent of the 2010 budget, amounting to P100 billion, was left when this administration took office. We also inherited the proposed 2011 budget, which has to be given to Congress roughly about two months into office. Even with these challenges, we embarked on serious reforms . . . And in 2012, we finally had the wherewithal to craft a budget, under which each peso government spent would have real and concrete benefits for the Filipino people,” according to the President.
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Of course, for this campaign to continue, we will need another President as dedicated against corruption as the present President. From the way things look, it is just too bad but that the next President could actually be eminently corruptible.
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hvp 12.04.14Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.