Beyond Headlines

by Juan L. Mercado

Critical issues can be blotted out by today’s headlines. These include screams of “we wuz  robbed” in the Paquiao-Bradley fight to fallout from impeachment the Supreme Court chief justice.  Here are some issues:         

The UN  Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio+20,” is starting  in Brazil.  Look beyond the over 50,000 delegates. The core agenda is the future of our grandchildren, on an earth  buckling from ecological strain.

Food demand will double in 22 years.  Limited natural resources systems, from fresh water to forests, are crumbling while poverty festers. Failures of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.linger.

Before Rio+20 opened, two significant reports were published: (a) “A  Review of  Evidence”, by the journal “Nature” and  (b) “5th Global Environmental Outlook”,  by UN Environmental Programme.

Earth may be on the way to an irreversible “tipping point,” writes Anthony Barnofsky from the University of California  in Nature. “.It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point.”

UNEP says “meaningful  progress were made in only four of 90 critical concerns:  making  gasoline  lead-free, easing ozone layer depletion, broadened access to clean water and  beefed-up marine pollution  research.  

“Some progress” were achieved in  40 issues, including protected habitat for plants and animals.  In 24,  there was “little or no progress”. “Clear deterioration”  was marked  in eight”, among them coral reefs. Less than five percent of Philippine reefs remain in “pristine condition.”

Soil  erosion  blights  53 percent of farm lands here.  In some fishing areas, quantity of marine organisms dipped by 90 percent.   Time magazine named  Dr. Jurgenne Primavera as one of 100 world environment heroes for trying to staunch the 39 hectares per day loss of vital mangroves.     (Thailand loses 18 hectares daily)

“A  new broom sweeps clean”. Without fanfare, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio directed  that  long hidden Supreme Court financial reports be  posted  on the tribunal’s  website.

Among those opened  were the once hush-hush Judiciary Development Fund and  Special Allowance for the Judiciary, plus  the 2010 Commission on Audit  Report. on the Court. The Court  “En Banc”  decided :that  Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth  of all justices and judges,  be released, Victoria Gleoresty Sp. Guerra  announced. The new guidelines seek transparency.

This is a  U-Turn from the previous show-nothing-say-nothing  policy of the Court.  Fuller access is the  catchword, under Carpio. He set the example by releasing his own SALN  even before  the Chief Justice was impeached.

Part of the  credit goes to Rene Saguisag. The former senator, for years, flayed blackout curtains on the JDF and other funds. Four-fifths of the JDF is ladled out for cost of living allowances.

The new  transparency is  reflected  in website content. The old Court website, among other things, posted buffed-up  vitaes of  Corona  and  “awards”.  His Ateneo classmates  pointedly  recall  it was the late Ed Jopson  who was valedictorian, not Corona.

“Life is filigree work,” the old saw goes. . “What is written clearly is not worth much, it’s the transparency that counts”. For a start, Carpio has re-directed the Court towards openness. Much still remains to be done in  judiciary reform..

Yet, we doubt if the post-impeachment  Court will cartwheel once it receives a letter from special pleaders like former  Marcos Justice Secretary Estelito Mendoza. Nor will it  jerry-rig  congressional districts to accommodate a  President’s son: Dato Arroyo.  As light beams  into once dark corners,  cockroaches scram. “Well started is half done”.

Look South. For the first time in decades, we have a better  than even chance, to clean up  padded voters lists in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

With cooperation of various citizen groups, the Commission on Elections  is  gearing up for a 10-day general registration in the region from July 9-18, 2012. “One Person, One Registration, One Vote” is the theme.

Comelec on June 4  shredded the Book of Voters for all of  ARMM  thru  Resolution No. 9442. This responded to a call  by President Benigno Aquino III to “exorcise” ghost voters. Scientists provided solid  data for this thrust.

ARRM claims that its population soared 5.4 percent, .more than double the national average. “Is this statistically possible?” Asian Development Bank statistician Dalisay Daligmalig asked equally skeptical fellow scientists at. the Philippine Population Conference.

Of course not.   But this “impossibility” jacked up Lanao del Sur’s voting population by a staggering 16 percent.  Voters in Sulu leaped by 12 percent, Tawi-Tawi by 11 percent; and Basilan by 8 percent. Maguindanao swept the field by claiming 78 percent!  ““Ghost barangays” are one result, as in Lanao del Sur. “Yet,  it has voters’ lists and precincts”  Namfrel’ notes.

From the President down to Abdul, speak of ghost schools, ghost teachers, ghost  students, ghost  precincts, and “prefab” certificates of canvass. in ARRM, says Fr.  Eliseo Mercado of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance. 

Today, there is  consensus on making honest elections centerpiece of  ARMM reforms, says  this  Oblate priest. The new technology of biometrics would be used to ensure honest polls. If this succeeds, it’d be a fitting legacy for PNoy and  installed OIC officials led by Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

There, we reached our 5,700 character cap for this column.. And we’ve not even touched China: the “Old  Dragon With New Teeth”.

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