IT’S COMMON SENSE, STUPID!

EXERCISE in common sense will help solve traffic nightmare in Metro Manila streets even as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is pushing Congress to grant the President super powers that experts say already exist in the official mandate of the agency, except on the process of procurement. 

Four months after Pres. Rody Duterte assumed office, traffic nightmare in Metro Manila has gone from worse to worst even after Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade, the person assigned to untangle this nightmare promised to make miracles in 100 days.

 

UNENDING NIGHTMARE  

Unfortunately the promised miracle turned to be an unending hellish nightmare that gets worse every passing day while dragging the government’s attempts to record economic growths.

The traffic nightmare should command preferential attention from the Duterte administration, this being one major reason most Filipinos withdrew support to the PNoy administration, convinced that the former government has abandoned them. 

The “failed state” perception was created by the traffic nightmare in Metro Manila and other key cities in the country. It did not help any that PNoy appointed a party mate who did not do his job but instead busied himself by entering into highly suspicious deals. 

That perception of an inefficient PNoy government that has abandoned its purpose became the principal fuel why Pres. Duterte gained massive support in the last elections. 

The traffic nightmare should command preferential attention from the Duterte administration, this being one major reason most Filipinos withdrew support to the PNoy administration, believing that the former government has abandoned them. 

Illegal drug menace was not that big an issue then and its alarming state and threat to our future only became public when Mr. Duterte took over Malacañang.

 

CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND INCOMPETENCE

More than 100 days after Mr. Duterte was sworn in as the 16th President of the country, the traffic nightmare that has made Filipinos seek solution from him continues to plague and strain their nerves every day. 

Mr. Duterte was elected with Filipinos hoping to once again feel that their government actually takes care and looks after their welfare.

The President therefore has an obligation to make this hope a reality. 

However, the man he named to make this challenge a reality is not up to the tasks that come with his position. 

And consumer advocates and even some members of Congress share the belief that the DOTr is bound to fail for obvious reasons: first; conflict of interest and second; incompetence. 

On these two, conflict of interest breeds corruption while incompetence is the end product of deliberate plan to commit corruption. 

The emergency powers being sought to solve traffic will become the license to massive corruption where consumers will end up paying for “errors” by government similar to what happened in the emergency powers granted during the energy crisis.

 

COMMON SENSE  

Untangling this traffic problem does not need genius but common sense. 

This is a problem of congestion, coming from too many cars competing for so little space. This is like a supply and demand problem. 

This gets complicated when in creating space to accommodate vehicles, big business smells big profits and will go for the kill. 

Big business makes lots of pesos from crisis and in some cases even encourage or create a perception of crisis to rake more profits. 

 

PLANTED EXPERTS

As in the past administrations, the oligarchs have already planted their “experts” in agencies overseeing big ticket projects like the DOTr. 

These “experts” get appointed as undersecretaries, assistant secretaries or directors in positions critical to planning and controls. 

In the case of the DOTr today, one top official is reportedly an expert in putting the government in a bind. This top official wrote the contract between the government and business conglomerate, involving the operations and management of LRT 1. 

 

ONEROUS CONTRACT 

The contract written and signed was too onerous against the government that the business conglomerate was demanding over P2-Billion from government even before they could operate the LRT system. 

Worse, the government agreed that the LRT and all its structures be appraised at zero value even when LRT 1 is reportedly earning about P9 Million a day at the time of the deal. 

Who this contract got to pass approval and finalized, charge it to the expertise of this “expert” now a top official of the DOTr. 

By the way, how he got the courage to bill government even before they could operate is an act of genius from experts in fucking the people. 

Simple: he wrote as part of the conditions of their conglomerate take over seven conditions that should the government fail to deliver, the latter is liable to pay the conglomerate over P7-Billion. 

Of course the conditions were impossible for the government to comply, hence the government owes the conglomerate over P7-Billion.

It is reported that the conglomerate here is the partnership between Ayala Group and Manny V. Pangilinan group in the take over and management of the LRT 1. 

Lucky for consumers since when MVP learned of this move by the Ayala group, he put his foot down and ordered that the collection be stopped.    

The reported architect of this take over is said to hold several executive positions in the Ayala Group and was recently appointed to a high position at the DOTr.

You don’t have to be genius to guess what will happen to the trillions of funds intended for transport given the suspect loyalties of our top DOTr officials. 

Simply connect the dots to arrive at a fearful situation.  

 

RUPA’S STRONG STAND

This is why Road Users Protection Advocates (RUPA) has taken a strong stand and made moves to block the appointment of businessman Arthur Tugade to head the DOTr. 

“Consumers have had the lessons in the past. This time we are taking preemptive moves to avoid a repeat on the solutions to the energy crisis,” Ray Junia, chair of RUPA said in a press statement. 

RUPA has been consistently calling on Congress and the Commission on Appointments to take necessary steps to protect consumers from potential“thieves” in government. 

“Please go beyond cursory check on the background of people intending to serve the government, more so in departments overseeing multi Trillion projects,” Junia urged the CA. 

The DOTr obsession to get Congress to pass the emergency powers bill on traffic solution surely raises eyebrows.

This is because several local traffic experts including former MMDA chief now Congressman Bayani Fernando have already said the DOTr already has enough powers within its current mandate to do what it wants sans emergency powers, raises suspicion on the real intent of the emergency power bill. 

RUPA suspects that the real reason behind the emergency powers sought is more on exempting procurement from regular controls like the regular bidding procedures, which could result to anomalous deals. 

“In all likelihood, the emergency powers will not actually solve the traffic problem but will be a license for officials of the DOTr to enrich themselves from big ticket contracts and ‘grandiose” projects,” RUPA declared in its statement.

In fact, several lawmakers are getting wary of Tugade’s vigorous insistence for the emergency powers despite lacking a clear-cut program on how to fast-track solving Metro Manila’s traffic woes.

 

GRACE’S VIEWS

Senator Grace Poe echoed RUPA’s fears that Tugade’s proposal may be a repeat of what happened in the 1990’s, when the government was given emergency powers to solve the power crisis.

And what happened during that time? Sen. Poe had the answer: the government gave out so many sovereign guarantees to big business that before long, expenses were being passed off to consumers. 

For Sen. Poe and RUPA, Tugade’s insistence on emergency powers to solve traffic crisis could bring back the horrors of the energy crisis during the term of President Fidel Ramos in the early 90s.

“Yun bang kahit hindi gamitin yung kuryente na iyon, babayaran pa rin iyan ng gobyerno. Kanino pinapasa iyan? Sa atin din.”  

(Up to now, the government is still paying for those unused electrical power. That’s why we are still suffering from high electricity rates because the government is passing the burden to us.) 

 

IDEAL SOLUTION

When President Fidel Ramos took over the government in June 1992, the country was faced with an enormous challenge: how to solve the worsening power crisis which has led to widespread blackouts across the country. 

Like the current traffic crisis, the effects of the power crisis to the just-recovering Philippine economy then were staggering: $600 to $800 million lost to the economy per year, according to World Bank. 

And just like today, it’s the small- and medium-sized enterprises and ordinary people that suffered most from the power crisis.

So President Ramos offered what seemed to be the ideal solution to the power crisis: vesting upon his government “emergency powers” to deal with it. 

Congress passed Republic Act No. 7648 (Electric Power Crisis Act of 1993) which gave Ramos the power to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of power plants, projects and facilities. Sounds familiar?

Just like the current request for emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis, the word war between the Executive and Congress was heated.

Columnist Tony La Viña said President Ramos even accused Congress members then as “obstructionists” and aggravating the people’s sufferings. 

Shades of Tugade hinting that Congress is to blame for the delay in the implementation of promised solutions due to the opposition to his emergency powers!

 

EFFECTS

Essentially, the emergency powers granted to Ramos were the reasons why the country is still reeling from high power costs until today.

The reason: the “sweeteners” the Ramos administration gave to big business to entice them to build power plants in the Philippines.

These “lopsided” provisions, as we all know, have been taken advantage of by big business oligarchs who control the power industry.

In short, these so-called “emergency powers” have only given the oligarchs an excuse to screw us again and again through high electricity costs.

 

WARNING TO LAWMAKERS

The past experiences on emergency powers should serve as a stern warning to our lawmakers to be very careful in granting the same especially if the people requesting for the same appear to have some sinister intentions. 

As we all know, some geniuses both from the government and the private businesses are so good at using different kinds of crisis to line their pockets and dupe the people and the public coffers to the point of even using Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects.

This was confirmed after Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez revealed that the government had not been truthful especially on the character of the PPP saying the past administrations used it to raise money by charging an upfront fee from prospective private sector partners.

The finance secretary also said that the program may look good on the government balance sheet but someone, or worse the public, will have to pay for it.

 

RUPA’s RECOMMENDATION

RUPA has been consistent in expressing its stand against the granting of emergency powers which reports say will cost P8-trillion noting that Tugade and his team do not have feasible  and doable plans and that they do not even know where to secure the funding.

Sen. Poe and other lawmakers’ opposition even extend to the fact that Duterte does not deserve to stay in his post one minute more due to his obvious incompetence and questionable track records.

Congress leaders also pointed out probable conflict of interest in his choices of undersecretaries who are known to have strong connections with big business conglomerates like Ayala and MVP groups.

“RUPA as a consumers advocate group strongly suspects that the reason behind the emergency powers sought is more on exempting the procurement from regular controls against corruption like the regular bidding procedures,” Junia pointed out. 

“In all likelihood, the emergency powers will not actually solve the traffic problem but will be a license for officials of the DOTr to enrich themselves from big ticket contracts and ‘grandiose” projects,” he insisted.

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