As I write this column, President Marcos Jr. has not yet appointed a new Department of Health secretary, who is urgently needed at this time with the increasing cases of the COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant.
Health experts say this is more transmissible than the Omicron variant.
The failure of BBM to appoint a permanent DOH secretary has given rise to a lot of speculation which has not been favorable to the new administration, especially because it’s almost the end of the year, with prospects that economic recovery is already in sight.
There is also the failure of the President to appoint his press secretary soon enough.
Santa Banana, I wonder why when there is Mike Toledo, who far exceeds the credentials and qualities of the other names mentioned as prospective press secretaries insofar as respectability and credibility are concerned, having been a former press secretary of former President Erap Estrada.
As a journalist, I know Toledo to be accepted by members of the Malacanang Press Corps since Mike has a background in journalism. What are you waiting for, Mister President?
There is also the need for a permanent agriculture secretary.
Considering that BBM has been in office for more than six months as acting Department of Agriculture secretary, it’s about time he resigned as DA secretary and concentrate himself on the many problems in the country, having laid the foundation of a good agriculture department.
Especially so with the continued inflation and high prices that go with inflation insofar as food security is concerned, my gulay.
But since President Marcos Jr. is still DA secretary, he’d do well to listen to his elder sister, Senator Imee Marcos, and show no-tolerance to the continued smuggling of sugar, vegetables, fruits, onions and meat and fish products that also continue to rise in prices in public markets.
Since the President has named a senior agriculture undersecretary, BBM would do well just to resign and make him agriculture secretary. The sooner, the better.
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Recently, during the “President’s Night” of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) of which I am Chairman Emeritus, though I was unable to attend because in my case my doctor advised me not to attend because of my age and being vulnerable to getting infected with COVID, the President emphasized that media and journalists are his “partners” in nation-building.
But, it would do well for the President to also attend to the personal problems of journalists like me, being a journalist for over 75 years now, still unable to retire because I have no retirement pay nor a pension plan.
Among the personal problems journalists like me are confronted with are meager salaries because journalism as a means of livelihood is not as profitable as compared to others.
Media workers are not treated like regular employees like those in the government and private sector, Santa Banana, who are deemed as regular employees entitled to overtime pay, and many other perks and benefits given to regular employees!
I am no longer speaking on behalf of myself, now in my twilight years, but my concern is for other media workers in print and broadcast (radio and television), who come after me who, I believe need to be treated, Santa Banana, like regular employees and workers.
It is for this reason that I am now appealing to President Marcos Jr. in the light of his statement that journalists are partners with the government for the common good, to go the extra mile and also meet the owners and publishers of print media and broadcast outlets to listen to their woes since, more often than not, media workers are not deemed to be regular employees and workers.
There is now a move by some kind-hearted members of the House of Representatives to enact a “Media Welfare Act” treating all media workers like regular employees entitled to all the perks and benefits, like overtime pay and other benefits to which regular employees in government and the private sector are entitled to, vacation leave with pay, and retirement pay and pension plans so that media workers can expect to raise a well-rounded family and perhaps still be productive in their old age.
It does not sound good for Congress to enact a law providing benefits to media workers since the media is the watchdog of the government.
I believe this is more the concern, my gulay, of owners and publishers of media outlets than the government.
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The perils and dangers of a true-blooded journalist had come to fore with the recent killing of a well-known broadcaster.
Indeed, in the pursuit of fact and the truth, a true-blooded journalist can be killed as Percy Lapid was.
For so many years, Santa Banana, there had been so many killings of journalists that I can no longer count them.
Recall the tragedy of no less than the 49, if I am correct, that were killed somewhere in Maguindanao for simply accompanying political leaders and their supporters in a caravan covered by media.
That was the biggest number of journalists ever killed in the long history of the press! (Editor’s Note: The now identified Ampatuan massacre – after the town’s name in the then undivided Maguindanao provnce – on Nov 23, 2009 killed 58 people including 32 journalists).
Hundreds of other members of media, particularly in the provinces had also been killed and murdered to such an extent that I have lost count.
Many have been killed not only because of work-related activities, but also some others because of personal and family reasons.
What I am trying to say is that while the life of a journalist, which I have chosen for myself, is exciting at times, its perils and dangers are countless in the pursuit of facts and accountability.
Santa Banana, speaking of myself in my more than seven decades as a journalist, who had gone full circle not only in print, but broadcast (radio and television), I have been sued for libel so many times that I can no longer count them.
I have apologized for some of them because I was reckless. To sum it up, the perils and dangers of being a journalist are numerous.
I still recall that time when I exposed the members of the Central Monetary Board for violations of the law during that time when there was need for quota allocations for business and industry because of the scarcity of foreign exchange, and I was given reports that they were playing the stock market and using their quota allocation for some other purposes, not for the reason they were given, my gulay!
I was then kidnapped by a notorious gangster from Cavite, apparently because he was a friend of one of those I exposed.
Thank heavens, it was only for a night.
What I disliked more as a result, the late President Magsaysay gave me five uniformed military men and women to secure not only myself but my wife and my three children who were then of school age.
Santa Banana, I had to feed the five security people which was a big deal then considering my meager salary as a journalist.
As I said, the perils and dangers of being a journalist are not commensurate with the meager salary of a journalist who is not corrupt.
Speaking of corruption, the reason why it’s easy to corrupt media people is because of the meager salary they get from media owners and publishers.
It’s for this reason why my advocacy has always been for media owners and publishers to pay reasonably enough the media people to avoid a lot of corruption in the media.
Along this, I believe that when President Marcos Jr. said media and journalists are his partners in government, he would do well to remind media owners and publishers to consider their media workers as regular employees, entitled to all the benefits and perks .
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I will have no column on October 28, Nov 1 and Nov. 8.