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2014 in review thru Get Real

This end-of-year column, like last year’s, is a review of the topics I covered in the 40 previous columns I wrote in 2014. Since those topics presumably touched on the “hot” issues of the day, it would be interesting to know what they were, and to find out how they were resolved (if ever).

My first column this year, was, it turns out, a portent of things to come. It was about Makati, and the Binays that run it. The column was given the title “Smell of fear in Makati,” and it was about Mayor JunJun Binay trying (and succeeding) to ride roughshod over the rules of a Makati village being enforced by its security guards. It was an excellent example of how public servants somehow see themselves as masters and as persons above the law.

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That column elicited the highest number of comments and shares among all the columns I wrote subsequently. There were 28,700 “shares.” In retrospect, it may be because the incident was covered by CCTV, so everyone could see for themselves what happened. No way it could be covered up. Additionally, it may have been the first time the public saw the dark side of the Binay mystique.

Nine other columns focusing on different aspects of the Binay character were to be written by yours truly, all stemming from what came out of the Senate hearings. So that means 25 percent of my columns this year were on that topic. Overkill, you think? I would disagree. Vice President Jojo Binay wants to be president of this country, he has to show that he deserves it. It is not enough to want the job. One of my themes, in this regard, was that the justice system in this country was too slow to allow us to make a decision on Binay before 2016, so the Senate hearings were our only source of information. We had, in effect, to depend on the court of public opinion.

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In fact, nine of my columns (or one less than those devoted to Binay) were focused on the justice system, including the second-to-the-last column of the year. First there was the matter of how slow it is. Take the Ozone fire case that dragged on for 19 years before the courts finally decided that the owners and the city fire authorities were at fault, which was what media had pointed out in painful detail less than three months after the incident occurred.

But at least, the courts called it correctly in that case. Compare that to the first case against Vice President Binay, which took more than 12 years to decide (what with going up to the Supreme Court and back down to the Sandiganbayan), with every legal stop pulled out; and then it ended up being withdrawn by the Ombudsman. Justice failure.

The second justice failure is the seeming lack of impartiality of the courts. I wrote, for example, about Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Bong Revilla being given special treatment in incarceration while Gigi Reyes has been thrown into a regular jail. Or how about a case against Elenita Binay being dismissed, but her subordinates in that case were held to account, eliciting (naturally) protests from them.

Then there is the matter of whether something can be done about the slowness in moving and resolving the cases. And I had columns detailing how—including increasing the number of justices in the Sandiganbayan. These steps were recommended since 2005 or 2006 by then Sen. Mar Roxas, followed by others. What is the current status? Zilch. No one is doing anything about it.

The other disappointment is that these justice columns, judging at least from the number of “shares” and comments, were unfortunately of little interest to the public. Unless the columns brought in examples like Revilla, Estrada or Binay (in which case the “shares” would reach 3,600), the number of shares would be on the order of 20 to 400. Not sexy, in other words. We have a long way to go.

Two columns (5 percent) were devoted to what the public can do. The pitch was that public opinion exerts a very strong influence on our decision makers.

Eight columns (20 percent) were devoted to matters socioeconomic—taxes, the budget, economic growth, poverty, agrarian reform, the effects of the pork barrel. I supported the “naming and shaming” of tax evaders by Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and the budget reforms put in place by Budget Secretary Butch Abad.

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What were the other columns about? The Sabah issue. China’s greed. MRT. State of the Nation Address. How the United States screwed the Philippines (my memory is long). “Manny Sundalo.” The (stupid) change in the academic calendar of the University of the Philippines.

I also checked on the number of columns that criticized President Aquino. Mostly for sins of omission. Examples: He failed to discuss the development targets he has not reached, he failed to support the nonpoliticians in his team (he fed them to the wolves).

Did I praise him? Well, I did not fault him for his Disbursement Acceleration Program, which I consider a success. And I certainly praised him for his work on disaster mitigation.

On the whole, I think, I was balanced in my assessment of his governance. I praised where praise was due, and blamed where blame was due. But of course, you, the reader are the final judge.

Coming into the New Year, I am sure that Binay and the justice system are still going to be the continuing topics. I hope we all have the stomach for them, and do what we can to make things right.

Happy New Year!

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Bong Revilla, Disbursement Acceleration Program, gigi reyes, Jejomar Binay, Jinggoy Estrada, Junjun Binay, Makati
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