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Still the biggest problem

There is no argument that President Duterte is on the right track in addressing the drug menace. It could make us a narco-state. We don’t have quarrel with this; it has bedeviled the country for so long.

In fact, according to the latest survey, 82 percent of Filipinos now consider themselves safer, both at home and on the streets, despite reports of summary killings. Some 7,800 have already died in the context of the war on drugs.

But along with drugs, and with corruption and criminality, we have other problems like poverty, joblessness, terrorism, insurgency and delivery of social services.

Among all these, I consider poverty the biggest problem. This must be attended to right away. It breeds other problems like drug addiction and trade, and criminality.

My gulay, why do you think poor members of society take drugs and resort to a life of crime?

In many places, hunger results in drug abuse. Hungry street children sniff solvents. This is how they avoid hunger.

* * *

The recent mob rule at the seven National Housing Authority project sites in Pandi, Bulacan is the best example of how poverty can drive marginalized groups to do anything unless government does something to prevent anarchy.

All the NHA can do is come out with a series of newspaper advertisements after the leftist Kadamay group took over on March 8 and illegally occupied 3,500 housing units in the NHA project sites previously earmarked for low-salaried personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and Metro Manila squatters living along danger zones and waterways.

Those advertisements look like the government agency is ambivalent on what should be done immediately if only to prevent Leftist groups from resorting to mob rule in the name of poverty.

President Duterte may have voiced concern over the incident but more has to be done. The government has to do more to stop this kind of rule. It can lead to anarchy—which was what exactly happened in Bulacan. In fact, there were other attempts by Kadamay to occupy other social housing projects of the government.

Why is this happening? The government has plenty of unfulfilled promises to provide housing for the poor.

My gulay, we boast of having 14 Filipinos in the Forbes list of billionaires. Indeed, economic growth is meaningless if the poor cannot partake of it.

For all these reasons, President Duterte has to make inclusive growth a priority. All efforts of the Duterte administration to eradicate illegal drugs, crime and corruption will amount to nothing if poverty remains, or worsens.

* * *

Cracks are showing in the Duterte administration. It validates the fact that in politics, there are no permanent friends and enemies. There are only permanent interests.

The Speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez, raised the issue of the allegedly overpriced and disadvantageous (to the government) land deal by the Floirendo-owned Tadeco with the Bureau of Corrections.

The 25-year lease with the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. owned by Mr. Duterte’s biggest campaign contributor—the banana plantation owned by the family of Davao del Norte Rep. Tonyboy Floirendo—says the government is entitled to profit-sharing.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reportedly ordered a review of the Bucor-Tadeco contract. It is alleged that it represented only a fraction of the prevailing market rate.

Alvarez vowed to look into the veracity of these reports. According to Alvarez, the contract provides that the BuCor would receive its share of profits with respect to the leased land where bananas are planted.

Alvarez alleged that the existing contract, “while guaranteeing the BuCor a share of P26.54 million a year for 5,308.36 hectares, actually prejudices the same since the prevailing price of lease contracts in that area, is not P25,000 per hectare per year.” This makes the lease agreement disadvantageous to the government.

Observers say that this is the second time that the Speaker has gone after Rep. Floirendo. Rep. Alvarez had also accused Rep. Floirendo of trying to dislodge him from the speakership and installing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This was supposedly the reason Alvarez, with the help of House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, had to declare vacant the positions of those who voted against the death penalty bill.

That’s how it goes in politics. Soon, alliances and friendships will be broken because of political interests.

* * *

Here’s something that the Insurance Commission must look into.

For years, many in the industry would trade stories about the corporate behavior of UK-based insurance broker Marsh. The accounts are not flattering. Some even question the legality of its Philippine operations, alleging that the broker took shortcuts in establishing business here in the Philippines.

Recently, there was news that this broker went too far and crossed the wrong company (and the wrong person). What is surprising is that they ostensibly betrayed long-time partners Prudential Guarantee and Assurance.

Santa Banana, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

The broker, identified as Marsh by the Inquirer, and PGA were collaborating on servicing the insurance needs of a large aviation company. PGA used the service of Marsh to broker its placements. Two things are worth noting here: first, PGA had held that aviation account for almost 20 years. Second, Marsh made a huge commission as PGA’s reinsurer of choice.

Sometime last year, however, there was an exodus of key Marsh aviation personnel and PGA was left with no choice but to select another insurer. Reportedly, what happened next was a series of backstabbing and double crossing.

Marsh apparently went to the owner of the aviation company and concocted a story about how they were being overcharged. As proof, it presented confidential information owned by PGA, with a few “alternative facts” thrown into it.

Robert Coyuito Jr., owner and CEO of PGA, enlisted a team of high-profile lawyers to file information with no less than the UK High Court in London.

With the noose slowly tightening around their necks, Marsh reportedly admitted wrongdoing and paid out-of-court settlement to avoid far greater damages.

How much? Let’s just say that the space on the check—or cheque, to use the British spelling—had space for nine figures.

As the saying goes, if you play with fire, you’ll get burned.

Topics: Emil Jurado , narco-state , war on drugs , National Housing Authority , Pantaleon Alvarez , Insurance Commission
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