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Maliksi’s ‘lugaw’ diplomacy

On his first day of work as the new chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), former Cavite governor Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi immediately noticed the long queue of people waiting for the building’s doors to open.

The folks lining up for assistance from the government’s largest charity organization looked haggard and sleepy. Reports had it that they had been there since before dawn, and in Maliksi’s colorful homespun language, “namumuti na ang hasang” (they were turning white at the gills), meaning they were about to faint from hunger.

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At once the long-time politico heeded his training as a populist public official: He had a huge pot of porridge or lugaw, which he describes as a special recipe made from malagkit or sticky rice, delivered to the PCSO headquarters and apportioned to everyone in line.

The free lugaw is still on the menu at the PCSO. The payment for it comes, not from the office’s funds, but from the personal budget of Maliksi, who shrugs when told this is a remarkable act of charity.

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“I really feel in my heart the need to help our poor citizens,” he says. Although he is the first of his clan to enter politics (his son is the present mayor of Imus, Cavite), Maliksi says public service has long been in his blood. In fact, he claims, even after he lost his last campaign for governor, he continued to hold the weekly “People’s Day” in his private residence. “I do what I can to help the people seeking my help,” he says simply.

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It took about a year for Maliksi to finally accept the offer from P-Noy to chair the PCSO. The reason? He had many things to “fix” in his home province, says the white-haired senior citizen, although he adds that he no longer harbors any plan to run for any local, much less national, electoral position.

Still, this hasn’t stopped any of his political opponents from continuing to sow intrigues against him.

Right now, the PCSO is enjoying a boon in sales of lotto tickets after the board decided to offer much larger prizes to bettors. But Maliksi would rather stress the impact of growing ticket sales on the PCSO’s charity services, saying that growing income would mean improved services to the agency’s constituents: the indigent and those in need of assistance—most commonly for medical needs, including such expensive but necessary services as chemotherapy, radiation, dialysis, and other diagnostic and treatment options.

As a local executive of long standing, Maliksi is also charged with dealing with local government executives backing operators of the Small Town Lottery (STL), which he says was conceived as an “alternative” to the illegal numbers game “jueteng.” “But little has changed,” observes Maliksi, “since the same people seem to be running things at the local level.”

Many eyebrows were raised when the President decided to hand over the chairmanship of the PCSO to a “politician,” with many airing fears that a politico could use this “lucrative” position to score electoral points. But Maliksi shows the value of having someone steeped in local politics overseeing policy matters at the PCSO. After all, he speaks the language of politics, and knows the intricacies of give-and-take and the realities of dealing with officials at the ground level.

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“SophiaX” may sound like the screen name of a bold star, but it is actually a “cutting-edge online learning platform.”

San Beda College Alabang is the first educational institution in the country to adopt SophiaX, which is based on the EdX learning software currently used by such respected institutions as Harvard University, MIT and Stanford University. The difference is that SophiaX, while based on EdX open source software, provides “a fully supported and comprehensive online platform,” the first of its kind in the Philippines and the product of Mandaluyong-based company Arkipel Inc.

SophiaX, say its creators, is a product “for Filipinos by Filipinos,” with San Beda contributing and investing in the technological and academic expansion of the Philippines.

The learning opportunities offered by SophiaX, say its originators, is enhanced by the combination of both “tradition and the wealth of increased opportunities made possible through the marriage of technology and connectivity.”

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My personal and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues (and there are many!) of Tom Osias, former executive director of the Population Commission. He passed away last Saturday in Baguio after a heart attack.

Tom presided over the PopCom at perhaps the most contentious and difficult period of its existence, during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with its board stacked with so-called “prolife” commissioners who sought to destroy the very basis of PopCom’s existence. What I’m told is that, toward the end of his term (before being diagnosed with cancer), Tom as well as his team was kept busy conducting family life sessions around the country, with a strong bias for natural family planning. I am told, too, that GMA once berated him for his rather tepid support for NFP and that such a public scolding left him pale and shaken.

I don’t know if such a stressful working environment contributed to his ill health, but Tom, a longtime dedicated PopCom officer, eventually rose to the post of executive director and became in the process an expert on urbanization and adolescent sexuality.

Tom’s remains are at the Loyola Memorial Chapel on Sucat, with necrological services at 10 a.m. today at the PopCom Central Office. The entire reproductive health community, I’m sure, mourns his untimely passing.

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TAGS: ayong maliksi, PCSO, SophiaX, Tom Osias
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