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EDITORIAL: Few good (wo)men

IN THESE trying times of trolls and deceit, hatred, stupidity and incompetence, violence and cuss words, there are a few – very few -- bright spots that at any rate give us a ray of hope to survive and hurdle our misfortunes. One bright spot is the Office of the Environment Secretary which is spearheaded by Gina Lopez, a pro-environment member of the Cabinet who ordered the closure of errant mining sites in various parts of the country. She allayed fears that many would go hungry, particularly the mine workers, with the closure of these mines. She assured that providing economic opportunities and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. “It is not one or the other; we can and should do both at the same time, because we cannot sacrifice the welfare of future generations to meet short-term economic objectives,” the fiery secretary explained. Now she warns that clean water is “mining’s most common casualty.” “Any competent scientist will tell you that mining affects fresh water through the heavy use of water in processing ore, and through water pollution from discharged mine effluent and seepage from tailings and waste rock impoundments,” explained Lopez. Another bright spot is the Office of the Ombudsman whose chair, Conchita Carpio Morales, as a public advocate is mandated to investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient. Last Tuesday, March 7, Morales ordered the filing of information against Rep. Prospero Nograles of Misamis Oriental for his participation in the anomalous utilization of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Also on the same day, Ombudsman Morales found probable cause to charge former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad of the Aquino administration with violation of Article 239 (Usurpation of Legislative Powers) of the Revised Penal Code. The charge stems from Abad’s unlawful issuance of National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 541 to carry out the implementation of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) involving P72 billion. In addition, Abad was found guilty of Simple Misconduct and ordered suspended for three months. However, considering his separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to his salary for three months. Five days earlier, on March 2, the Ombudsman ordered members of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s staff to be perpetually barred from holding public office for their involvement in PDAF, or the so-called lawmakers’ pork barrel. Last month, the Ombudsman also found out that from 2007 to 2009, a total of P345,000,000.00 was released by DBM as part of former Senate President Juan Enrile’s PDAF and accordingly ordered the dismissal from the service of his personnel involved. Also last month, Morales barred Sen. Ramon Revilla’s staff members, described as PDAF scam operators, from government service. Estrada, Revilla and Enrile had been indicted for plunder, an unbailable offense that keeps them under detention up to now, except for Enrile, who by judicial fiat, was freed on bail. Just last week, Enrile was seen paying Pres. Rodrigo Duterte a visit with smiles on their faces. We don’t know how these pleasant events will end, given that indicted high-profile respondents for plunder and graft cases like Enrile and former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are now free as the birds, where the latter is performing her duties as newly-reelected congresswoman and being floated about as the incoming governor of the Central Bank. WWWhat? With only few bright spots amidst the dark clouds, we sincerely hope that no disastrous storm will come the way of the present administration as we keep our wits together while many others seem to be losing theirs.

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