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Worse than pork barrel

The late Speaker Ramon Mitra once said: Give members of Congress a piece of toilet paper and they will enact a law.

Mitra may have been exaggerating, but, Santa Banana, the most ridiculous, idiotic and even insane things often come out of the lips of congressmen!

Take for instance the move of the House of Representatives to take over the functions of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (on the grant of permits for small-town lottery), the Games and Amusement Board and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (after that incident at Resorts Worlds Manila where a gambling addict went berserk and set the tables on fire. Thirty-eight people died).

My gulay, for politicians to take over the functions of the PCSO, GAB and Pagcor would be a ticket to corruption. The scandal that might ensue could be bigger than the pork barrel scam.

***

Domestic and foreign investors often say that the biggest road blocks they experience here are red tape, corruption and lack of infrastructure.

I would like to add: Too much government regulation and undue intervention.

An example of this would be the insistence of the Philippine Competition Commission to review the P70-billion acquisition by PLDT and Ayala-controlled Globe of San Miguel-Telstra even before the PCC’s implementing rules were released.

The PCC subsequently filed a petition before the Supreme Court last April, through the Solicitor-General, to lift the Court of Appeals’ temporary restraining order. PCC chief Arsenio Balisacan said the commission would not back down and would not be intimidated by companies that have grown accustomed to unregulated business practices that hamper competition and ultimately hurt consumers.

In other words, Balisacan has already made up his mind to review the transaction AND render it illegal.

Santa Banana, that deal was nothing more than an acquisition of assets from SMC and not an attempt of PLDT and Globe to perpetuate their duopoly. It was a move to modernize the telecom industry for the benefit of all consumers.

The Philippines has long been suffering from slow internet service.

There is already the National Telecommunications Commission regulating PLDT and Globe and the newly formed Department of Information and Communication Technology. How much more regulation can the government think of?

And now comes the PCC seeming to tell PLDT and Globe: “I want everything under my control. You can’t have a deal without my saying so.”

My gulay, the PCC is negating what the DICT is trying to do—improve the industry for the benefit of Filipinos.

So what is the agenda of Balisacan and the PCC? This shatters my belief in the free market.

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President Duterte and the military should refrain from announcing deadlines about the liberation of Marawi City from the Islamic State-inspired terrorists still laying siege there.

As of last Sunday, the death toll on the government side was already 58, while an estimated 158 terrorists have been killed. The Mautes have also killed 21 civilians.

With announcements that the military and police would liberate Marawi, things could only get worse before they get better. The terrorists are inside mosques and tunnels in the city. The frequent announcements about the liberation of Marawi, when we all know that the conflict is still raging, only makes the public doubt the capability of government to stop the Mautes. There are already unconfirmed reports that the terrorists, some of them returning home from the Middle East, have already gone to other Mindanao cities. This is so they could make the island a hub of IS and eventually establish a caliphate there.

It is difficult to predict what would happen next in Marawi City, much more when the Maute-Abu Sayyaf would give up. But one thing is sure—there will be more deaths on both sides, and among civilians.

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I was shocked to read the reaction of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to the petition of lawyers and former public officials when he said that he would tear up the decision of the Supreme Court if the latter nullifies the resolutions of Congress supporting the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Alvarez made his point clear.

I find his reaction arrogant. Even President Duterte said he would comply with whatever the Supreme Court decides.

Yes, there is such a thing as separation of powers among the three branches of government. It’s the Supreme Court, not Congress, that interprets the law.

***

My good friend Rene Golanco, an investment banker, wrote me a letter complaining about Gloria Maris restaurant in Greenhills. It refused to honor his senior citizen card.

He complained to the cashier and the manager, Gloria Chu. They told him that his senior citizen card number did not appear in the restaurant’s registry.

Rene told them that the restaurant must just comply with the law and not question it.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Worse than pork barrel , House of Representatives , Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office , Philippine Competition Commission
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