JV plays the waiting game
Seldom in Philippine politics do we see an official, much less a senator, take his lumps and accept a penalty with little fuss or controversy.
Which doesn’t mean that Sen. JV Ejercito wholeheartedly accepts his suspension by the Ombudsman. For one, he has filed an appeal regarding his case. For another, he believes he has perfectly good grounds for the actions for which he has been penalized.
“At the time,” he explains, “San Juan (where he was then the incumbent mayor) was hit by a series of robberies of banks, stores and other establishments. But our police force was under-armed, since their powerful firearms were taken by the PNP for use in rebel-infested areas.”
Concerned about the crime wave, Ejercito decided to divert the city’s calamity funds—duly approved by the city council—to purchase the needed firearms. Apparently, this constitutes “technical malversation,” even if he did not use a centavo for his own personal use and, in the face of the many “multimillion” scams bedeviling government, the sum involved could be called “paltry.”
But Ejercito is optimistic that even if his appeal is denied, when his suspension expires early next year, he can return to the Senate and resume his many legislative initiatives. In the meantime, he is enjoying to the hilt his time to spend with his wife Cindy and sons Jose Emilio and Julio Jose.
“JV,” for Jose Victor, could be said to have been born for politics. His parents, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and incumbent San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, named him “Victor” because he was born soon after his father’s first electoral victory in the San Juan mayoralty race. This was a win that paved the way for “Erap’s” long career in national politics, culminating in the presidency, and only briefly interrupted by his ouster.
Though JV could be said to have entered the “family business” (his half-brother is detained senator Jinggoy Estrada) rather late in the day, he seems to be in a hurry to leave his stamp in the Senate and on Philippine history.
Among the legislation he is pursuing is the creation of the “Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Because of his stint as a three-time mayor, Ejercito says he knows the needs and desires of the urban poor. In San Juan, the successive Estrada/Ejercito administrations have tried to implement “in-city” relocation or development for the informal sector. “This is so because we know how important it is for the poor to live close to their sources of income,” he says. “If they cannot make a living where they are located, they will just abandon their new settlements and return to the city.”
In his advocacy for a housing department, the youthful senator said he worked closely with Vice President Leni Robredo, who held for a while the portfolio of Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chair. “We worked well together,” he says of Robredo, who left the Cabinet after being told she was no longer welcome in Cabinet meetings.
But with a backlog of over 5 million houses for survivors of calamities, homeless folk and those living in unsafe houses, Ejercito believes “a concerted effort by the government and private sector and the application of available and new solutions are necessary.”
Despite the controversy it is sure to generate, Ejercito is also pushing for the revival and reopening of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant which, he said, he has visited and describes as being “well-maintained.” Even if opposition to this “white elephant” is still considerable, Ejercito says the BNPP “should be allowed to fulfill its original role of propelling the economy but with all safeguards in place.”
Less controversial, but immensely practical and necessary, is the “road speed limiter” act, calling for the mandatory installation of automatic devices that slow down a vehicle as it approaches a certain (unsafe) speed in public conveyances. Such speed limiters are already installed in imported buses, notes Ejercito, and their use could go a long way towards reducing the appalling number of road accidents that kill hundreds of Filipinos daily.
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