Binay is the antisquatting czar
Brand-new senator JV Ejercito, son of Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada and San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, was one of the three guests at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond hotel last Monday. The others were Deputy Director Teodoro Pascua of Tesda and Raymond Fortun, lawyer of the family of Angelito San Juan, who died of injuries suffered during the explosion in a condo unit last month in Ayala Land’s Two Serendra in Taguig City.
Among the early questions asked of Senator JV was where he would be seated in the Senate. The seating arrangement in the Senate is alphabetical, so would he be seated beside his half-brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, with whom he is feuding?
“No,” JV said. “We will have Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile between us. I will be using my real surname, Ejercito.” Ejercito is the real surname of Erap, but his screen name is Estrada, which Senator Jinggoy (his son by former Sen. Loi Estrada and also an actor) likewise adopted. JV also adopted the name Estrada during the recent election campaign but now that he is a senator, he is reverting back to Ejercito (to be away from Jinggoy?).
What is the feud with Jinggoy about? JV was asked.
“Politics,” he said. “We supported opposing candidates in the last elections.”
What will his advocacy be in the Senate?
JV: “The youth. Better education and more jobs for them.” Among the bills he has already filed is one creating a body to regulate tuition so that students and their parents will not be at the mercy of schools.
Will he help his father at Manila City Hall?
JV: The only help I can give is my experience in running San Juan, where computerized government operations which resulted in higher income and quicker and smoother procedures. I think Mayor Erap is also going to computerize the Manila government, which should also increase the city’s income. Among the problems of the city is the lack of funds.
Among the biggest problems not only in Manila but in the whole metropolis and other urban areas is squatting. How did he solve it in San Juan?
JV: By sheer will power. We needed a site for the new city hall. The only one available was the site of old and abandoned warehouses occupied by squatters. The squatters resisted relocation, but we managed to relocate them in good houses and gave them financial assistance.
Squatting is getting out of control in the whole country. What are his ideas on how to solve it?
JV: Maybe we should have a superbody that will synchronize the efforts of all concerned government agencies.
Don’t we already have a superbody against squatting, headed by no less than his party mate, Vice President Jojo Binay? People say Binay is more concerned with campaigning for the presidency instead of doing his job as antisquatting czar.
JV: Maybe the superbody needs no less than the President to head it so that all government officials will follow his orders.
Isn’t the Vice President trying to pass the buck to the President? He is the President’s surrogate. What more does he need? If Binay is able to solve the squatting problem, he will get the votes not only of the squatters whom he provided with homes but also of the property owners whose lots will finally be freed of squatters. That will clinch him the presidency. So why doesn’t he do it?
JV: He is doing his best. A person can only do so much.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has warned that barangay and other local government officials who cannot stop squatting will be dismissed. Do you agree?
JV: Yes. Squatting can thrive only with the consent of government officials. In fact, many squatters were brought in by these officials themselves to vote for them. That is a big reason officials are hesitant to eject squatters.
So what is the solution?
JV: The President should crack the whip on these officials.
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Deputy Director Teodoro Pascua was asked if Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) is training squatters for jobs.
Pascua: Yes, of course. Tesda is open to everybody who comes to us for training.
What does Tesda provide?
Pascua: We have many training courses of varying lengths. The shortest is three weeks for masseuses. The longest is for computer programming.
How many of the graduates end up with jobs?
Pascua: About 61 percent.
What happens to the rest?
Pascua: We teach them entrepreneurship. Many of them end up with small businesses.
Is Tesda training farmers? A third of the population is in agriculture and we are an agricultural country.
Pascua: One of our training courses is for agriculture and fisheries. The trouble is that most young people want jobs abroad. Very few want to go into farming.
It’s because the returns from farming are very little.
Pascua: No, the returns can be big if you know how. That’s why people should be trained in agriculture.
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Raymond Fortun was asked about the Serendra case. Will San Juan’s family sue Ayala?
Fortun: We are waiting for the results of the investigation. If it turns out that there was negligence on the part of Ayala, then definitely we are going to sue.
What is taking so long in the investigation? Aren’t they dribbling the ball?
Fortun: I think the investigators are being very careful.
The inquiry into the Glorietta blast also took very long. The alleged cause was also a gas leak and the project is also owned by Ayala. Do you see a pattern?
Fortun: The people who investigated the Glorietta blast are the same ones investigating the Serendra explosion. I guess that explains it.
Did Ayala help the family of San Juan?
Fortun: Yes, and for that the family is grateful. Ayala paid for all the hospitalization expenses and for the plane tickets for San Juan’s remains to be taken to his family in the United States.
What about damages?
Fortun: None yet.
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