Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Joy ride to the US

Joy ride to the US

The rewards for political loyalty and friendship to GMA include luxurious trips abroad, expensive wining and dining at posh hotels, stay in the same domicile, in the company of the Madame herself, according to former senator Ernesto Maceda. Maceda pointed out that the US government gave $100,000 assistance for victims of Typhoon Frank but that the cost of the junket incurred for $GMA’s entourage must have reached more than $1,500,000 already.

Here is Maceda’s breakdown: There were 20 members of the official delegation, that plus all the members of the Arroyo family who went along for the trip the Philippine delegation must have occupied at least 30 rooms at that hotel. With room rates ranging from $500 to $5,000 a night for suites and ordinary rooms the Philippine delegation would have spent anything from 10,000 to 150,000 US dollars a night for hotel stay alone. GMA hosted expensive lunches and dinners there too. Maceda said that the plane fare bill could reach $200,000 to 300,000 US dollars also. The private jet that was used to fly GMA from Fresno, California to Washington could easily have cost $300,000. As in previous US visits, the Security, MalacaƱang media and DFA support groups would number between 200 to 250 persons. It is normal that the Consul Generals from US and Canadian cities would also be called to Washington. The big delegation also means a big amount to be spent for chauffeured vehicles hired to be used, at a rate of about $800 to $1,000 a day depending on the class of vehicle. Easily $150,000 would be spent for car hires for five days. At least $100,000 would be used for PR and media purposes. It is probable that GMA also gave some pocket money to members of her delegation, including her PAL crew. This, as in the past, has turned out to be quite an expensive trip to the US and we haven’t even factored in the cost of junket by those extra loyal congressmen, like you know who, other hanger ons, and the staff members of the cabinet officials that also went along for the joy ride.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said that there is no such list of congresspersons who went along for the US trip. But in the same TV news interview he said that the congressmen whose names were not on any list said that they did not use any public funds to finance their trip to see George Bush (what a waste of good money) and watch the Pacquiao fight. We all know that this is simply too good to be true. Congressmen are given almost 2 million pesos each for travel expenses which they convert to cash according to the government insider Ernesto Maceda.

The Maceda list of government officials who also joined the official delegation to the United states include: Speaker Nograles, Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar of Cebu, Amelita Villarosa of Oriental Mindoro, Mikey Arroyo, Dong Gonzales and Ana Bondoc of Pampanga, women legislators Annie Susano and Nanette Daza of Quezon City, Zenaida Angpin of Manila, Rizalina Seachon Lanete of Masbate, Trinidad Apostol of Leyte, Rachel Arenas of Pangasinan, Mitzi Cajayon of Caloocan and Herminia Ramiro of Misamis Occidental, Monico Puentevella of Bacolod, Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, Danilo Suarez of Quezon, Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan, Junie Cua of Quirino and Hermilando Mandanas of Batangas, Marc Cagas of Davao del Sur, Yevgeny Emano of Misamis Oriental, Anton Lagdameo of Davao del Norte, William Erwin Tieng of Buhay party list, Jose Zubiri III of Bukidnon, Rommel Amatong of Compostela Valley, Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Narciso Santiago III of ARC party list, Andres Salvacion of Leyte, Teodoro Coquilla of Eastern Samar, Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Cavite, Dato Macapagal of Camarines Sur, Joseph Violago of Nueva Ecija, Marc Mendoza of Batangas and Roman Romulo of Pasig, Bienvenido Abante of Manila, Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, Albert Garcia of Bulacan, Antonio Diaz of Zambales, Eddie Gullas of Cebu, Amado Bagatsing of Manila, Rosario Rufino Biazon of Muntinglupa, Munir Arbison of Sulu, and Joseph Santiago of Catanduanes. What a shame!

By the way this junket happened at a time when responsible government officials are badly needed back home with our people just beginning to come to terms with the tremendous amount of devastation brought by typhoon Frank.

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Poor Bing, caught between a rock and a hard place. Our good mayor is currently being criticized for his decision to fly to Nevada so he can carry Pacquiao’s championship belt during Sunday’s bout despite Bacolod getting badly hit by the storm. But if Mayor Bing stayed back home he might be criticized for not supporting the Pacman if Manny loses to David Diaz. My unsolicited advice to Mayor Bing, don’t entwine your political career with that of the Pacman too much. Manny is getting older and less disciplined with each new fight. He will surely lose his crown one day and your career as a politician can suffer the same fate too. Besides I don’t think that reasonable people will take it against you if you decided to stay back and help typhoon victims. Even Manny won’t mind too much I think.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Confession of a young presidential appointtee

Mike's war: the confessions of a presidential Appointee

Below, excerpts from an open letter from Mike Francis Acebedo Lopez, the youngest presidential appointee at age 24. Lopez is described by his peers as a proud Cebuano youth leader who started as a volunteer of the NYC until he was appointed as one of its Commissioners- at-large.

Sham after sham

I am proud to report to the Filipino people to whom I am accountable that no pressure from my colleagues has allowed me to conform to what I would describe as a highly degenerate National Youth Commission. (Presidential appointees always say they serve at the pleasure of the President, but in truth we serve the greater interest of our people). This is the same Youth Commission that has bullied the alumni association of the SSEAYP (Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program), an organization of passionate and dedicated alumni of the Japanese Government's SSEAYP program. (The NYC is mandate by law to implement the SSEAYP). The NYC Leadership insisted on the creation of a different alumni association to divide the current SSEAYP leadership in the Philippines, apparently to get back at them because the group pressed charges against the Officials of the Commission. These charges emanated from the Commission's self-interested decision to choose one of our own as National Leader of last year's SSEAYP delegation (the first time its ever happened) to a two-month all-expense paid cultural cruise across Japan and the ASEAN region. Worse, the Commission still opened the search to other applicants even if the NYC's Leadership already promised this concession to the interested Commissioner, all the while creating a semblance that the process was still being followed. So what initially was just an issue of delicadeza became an issue of deception, a betrayal of public trust.

Genuine leadership seeks to unite, not divide the efforts and convictions of young people. When it does, it's apparent that it is for no other reason but to perpetuate one's stay in power or to secure an otherwise insecure position in society or government.

This is also the same Youth Commission whose Leadership has cases at the Ombudsman, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), along with a severely damaged reputation as evidenced by complaints circulating around various youth circuits and e-groups across the country and abroad. This Youth Commission has ganged up on me for my opposition, insisting that we are a collegial body and should therefore be united and agree on everything. But I believe in unity in diversity (there was a reason why the NYC was created to have several commissioners) and upholding truth and justice over everything else. They do not understand that I oppose only those decisions that I know will tarnish our individual and collective reputations, ultimately affecting the credibility and integrity of our agency. They do not understand that we each represent the NYC and our government, and our actions can and will affect the credibility and integrity of the Office we represent. Our credibility, I believe, is the best gift I could give our country and our fellow young Filipinos.

Many youth leaders across the country are mad at the NYC for its many abuses. To the officials of the NYC, every crisis in the Arroyo Presidency is yet another opportunity to "kiss ass". This has lead to the moro-moro and incompetent management of our international programs. Slots for foreign trips, scholarships, and exchange programs are given to friends of the officials, with an unwritten, internal arrangement that only those who are pro-administration will be chosen. Take the SSEAYP for instance: its guidelines, which have been in place for several years, were changed last year to accommodate an alleged relative of the President. In fairness to the President, I do not think that she is aware of these happenings, nor has she given such order. The irony is that the alleged relative did not apply last year, but the damage has already been done against the integrity of the SSEAYP selection process. And all this after we require applicants of our programs to accomplish so many difficult requirements and submit long essays. It really is a sham, a travesty! Kawawa `yung mga bata, trusting and submitting themselves to a process at babastusin lang pala sila. These officials have no respect for the efforts of the young people whose interests we all swore to uphold and protect.

The Officials of the National Youth Commission have miserably failed our country's youth, demoralizing like never before the hardworking staff of the agency. (The agency's staff's turnover rate in the past year is the highest in the NYC's history) In this battle, I have been wounded. I am ashamed of speaking on behalf of a Youth Commission that has not done its job. I cannot lie any longer to my fellow youth that everything is alright.

Thank god for young people like Mike. If the youth is the hope of the fatherland then all may not be well with a National Youth Commission that Mike Lopez describes as decadent. Yet, the self sacrifice that this young man has shown, by writing an open letter that will destroy his chances at serving as a public official of the land, is commendable and allows us to hope that perhaps not all is lost.