Bongbong open to Marcos-Poe team
It was an all-star cast at last Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel led by Sen. Bongbong Marcos. The other guests were Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Chair Erineo Maliksi, Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City, University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque, and Rep. Jerome Paras.
Asked about the substitute bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that he said he would soon submit to the Senate, Marcos said it would have none of the unconstitutional provisions in the original bill. Indeed, why pass a bill at all that would ultimately be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court? Think of all the time, effort and money that would be wasted. He cited the agreement signed years ago in Kuala Lumpur by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that was eventually declared unconstitutional by the high court.
Marcos said the opt-in provision in the original bill would have to go as many Mindanaoans themselves are protesting it. That provision allows local government units outside the future Bangsamoro to file a petition to be included in it with the signatures of only 10 percent of the registered voters (not the population).
“We have already voted twice against inclusion in two plebiscites,” said the protesters. “Why include us in a petition by a mere 10 percent of the voters? That’s no democracy where the majority rules. What’s more, the petition for inclusion can be made again and again every year. There will be a ‘creeping encroachment’ by the Bangsamoro on contiguous territories that have already voted against inclusion in plebiscites.”
Asked if he intended to run for president, Marcos replied: “Maybe yes, maybe not. I am keeping my options open.”
Asked if he would be open to a team-up with Sen. Grace Poe next year, Marcos laughed and admitted that there is an urban legend that he and Poe are siblings. “We have come to accept that,” he said. “In fact, in the Senate, I call her ‘sis’ and she calls me ‘kuya,’”
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PCSO Chair Maliksi talked about the reforms he is planning in the agency, including an increase in the income of the small town lottery (STL) so that more funds can be given to charity. The PCSO helps poor patients pay for their medical bills. It spends P18 million a day for them, “but that is not enough, we need more,” he said.
The STL was set up as a means to stop “jueteng,” but it is turning out that it is the illegal numbers game that is stopping the STL. Maliksi said there are moves to make the STL more competitive: more and better-paid collectors going from house to house to collect bets; public drawing of winning numbers (unlike in jueteng, where the draw is made in secret); bigger prizes; more benefits to local government units that would be visible to the people so they would bet in the STL instead of in jueteng; a percentage of the profits going to policemen and other municipal employees so they won’t have to accept bribes from jueteng operators; etc.
In other words, the more the STL makes, the more benefits to the townspeople.
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Congressman Castelo, who chairs the House committee on transportation, said it is working on ways to ease traffic congestion in urban areas like Metro Manila. He said the problem is caused by too little efficient public transportation in these areas.
There are too many buses running on Edsa that run half-empty but contribute to the congestion, waste precious fuel, and pollute the air with their exhausts, Castelo said. The people prefer the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) because it is faster, but the trains are too crowded because there are not enough of them running due to frequent breakdowns. As a result, people buy cars that congest the streets even more. Every year, more than 200,000 new cars are sold, most of them in Metro Manila, but there are no new streets added.
Castelo said a law may be passed like those in Tokyo, Singapore, New York and other cities where motorists will not be able to buy a vehicle unless they can prove that they have a garage to put it in. The narrow streets are constricted even further by too many vehicles parked on them, the lawmaker said. More parking areas are what Metro Manila needs most.
Provincial buses will be banned from cities. They will have terminals outside city limits, and city buses will take the passengers inside.
For added public transportation, Castelo said a subway would be built in the metropolis. Plus there will be more MRT trains next year. He also said Congress would allot more funds for the construction of more streets and for the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railways.
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Professor Roque said he believes the Philippines will win in the international arbitration court in its fight with China over the islets in the West Philippine Sea. Even if China does not participate in the case, the court can still render a decision, he said.
But how can it enforce the decision against China? Roque was asked.
He replied: There have been earlier cases where one party did not take part in the trial but the arbitration court still rendered a decision and world public opinion forced that party to accept the decision.
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