"I am confident of the San Miguel project's success."
When President Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016, he anchored his six-year term on the promise of change. He said he would end the drug menace and government corruption.
This promise resonated with the people. No other chief executive has delivered on these twin challenges.
But three years into the administration, change is becoming more an illusion than reality, Santa Banana!
First, the President said he would end illegal drugs in three months. And then he asked for an extension. Meanwhile, the problem has persisted and even worsened, with smuggling happening right under the noses of Customs officials. Billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs, like shabu, are entering the country despite the Palace’s claims that we are winning the war on drugs.
In fact, the bloody war on drugs has spawned claims of extrajudicial killings and other atrocities committed by the police. Human rights activists here and abroad have denounced the manner of implementing the drug war.
It is likely the drug problem will outlast President Duterte, who steps down in 2022.
As far as corruption is concerned, the campaign appears useless because many of the President’s friends and allies have themselves been accused of wrongdoing. In fact, Mr. Duterte has been criticized many times because of his habit of recycling and even promoting allies whom he had already dismissed for having a “whiff of corruption” around them.
I have always said that the war on corruption is an impossible mission. Corruption is embedded in our system where discretion is required. Customs provides a good example. Since automating everything at Customs is impossible, smuggling is almost always prevalent. This is also true at the Bureau of Internal Revenue, another agency notorious for corruption.
Corruption in government can only be minimized and never eradicated.
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With regard to the war on drugs, President Duterte has to be aware that the demand for drugs is just so strong that the Philippines has become a transshipment point for the operations of drug cartels. It boils down to simple supply and demand. For as long as there is demand for drugs, there will always be supply.
Not even the United States and European countries have eliminated their drug menace. Here is Asia, even the death penalty is not enough of a deterrent.
In fairness to the Duterte administration, while it appears that the President has not succeeded, the fact that he is doing it and trying very hard is good enough for a lot of Filipinos—enough for them to maintain their trust and confidence in him.
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Another thing that the President must accept is the need for him to be transparent in all his actions.
For example, there is a provision in the 1987 Constitution that says all public officials and employees must file their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. Now it appears the President does not want to release his own SALN, claiming that it is the Office of the Ombudsman that should release it.
Does Mr. Duterte not realize that the refusal to release his SALN gives the impression that he is hiding something?
I know for certain that he is not. But what he is doing—or not doing, rather—raises a lot of questions.
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President Duterte has said a lot against the two water concessionaires, the Manila Water of the Ayalas and Maynilad of Manny Pangilinan. He called them oligarchic saboteurs and plunderers. He even threatened a military takeover.
The two concessionaires have given up their claim worth almost P11 billion. This was the amount awarded them by the arbitration court in Singapore for their supposed losses.
This makes us ask what Duterte is really up to. He is a lawyer and thus he should know that when it comes to contracts that the government finds onerous and against public policy, one still has to go to court to have them nullified.
There are those who claim that he may just want to have other firms take over the water companies. Then again, this is all speculation.
What is important to consider is that Duterte is not achieving anything by cursing and ranting. In fact, he is delivering the wrong message that he can just do anything he wants to do.
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Santa Banana, finally we have a doable solution to the nightmarish traffic problems on Edsa! Traffic has really affected the quality of life of those who must travel for a long time to and from their schools or workplaces.
Last month, San Miguel submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Department of Transportation to build a $3-billion elevated expressway along Edsa. This would stretch from Macapagal Avenue in Pasay to Samson Road in Caloocan City or possibly Balintawak.
Ramon S. Ang, the visionary president and chief operating officer of San Miguel, said: “I hope we can convince the Transportation secretary to expedite the processing. Once we do that, we can start building say middle of 2020 and it can be completed two years after.”
There have been hundreds of suggestions on how to solve the horrible Edsa traffic, but this I think could be a workable solution.
The proposal of Ang includes five northbound and five southbound lanes. The expressway would be modeled after a similar project in Jakarta. The steel project will be built over the MRT.
Knowing the capability of San Miguel in building mega-expressways, I am confident about this project’s success.