New Sheriffs

by Juan L. Mercado

“Mankind’s most valuable resource is probably  50 centimeters of topsoil,”  forester Patrick Charles Dugan wrote on reading Viewpoint‘s  “Poverty Webs”. This resource is being ravaged.

“Recently, I visited a Bukidnon  mountain village called Bendum,” he  wrote. “Peter Walpole,a Jesuit priest and friend, implemented a rural development-cum-education project there for years.  On the way,  Fr. Walpole and I passed kilometers of hilly terrain where small-scale farmers denuded and plowed steep slopes to plant corn.

“The results are horrendous. Landslides all along the way.  In a few years, most of the soil will be washed away. The land will be down to bedrock. The environmental damage is far larger than mining or logging operations that NGOs, the church, media and politicians protest about.

“The  problem calls for massive soil conservation. Systems promoted by the Mindanao Rural Baptist Center, for example,  can save the land and still enable the farmers to make a living.  But our political leaders  don’t pay much attention to this problem.  The corn farmers, along the road that Fr. Walpole and I traveled, are heading straight towards poverty as they constantly lose their topsoil.”

“Generation Fissures”  (PDM/Sept 10) cited graft shuttling across the years,” emailed former University of the Philippines graduate Manuel de la Torre. Now a researcher in Idaho,  De La Torre recalls Efraim Genuino had Philippine Games and Amusement Corporation pay P1,007,408.908 for casino coffee.  That excludes P21.1 million for hamburgers. Genuino’s   children cloned that example in the last elections.

His sons ran for mayor, Erwin in Makati and Anthony in  Los Baños.  Makati voters trashed Erwin, despite hefty Pagcor donations, including  rice. In Los Banos, educated electors cluster in precincts around UP or agencies like International Rice Research Institute. They’re a minority.  Most voters huddle in depressed barangays, along Laguna de Bay shores. They go for the highest bidder. 

The Genuinos exploited  this Achilles heel. “We don’t need you. You need us!”, Genuino the Elder told  rallies. He denied  President Gloria  Macapagal Arroyo or the former First Gentleman owned Trace College,  That’s where Genuino poll campaign vehicles often double-parked.  Los Banos mayor “Ton” Genuino  holds court there.

An election often triggers overkill. Pagcor crews installed brand new lamp posts, on the main street leading into UP at Los Banos campus —  on election day. They ignored lampposts installed, on the road’s other side, two years before. Neither did they bother to  tape over Pagcor logos. Brazen arrogance is spawned by a culture of impunity.  

Trace College’s claim to five minutes of fame is world class pools. At the last Southeast Asia Games, all swimming contests were held at Trace. Did funds from Pagcor, Malacanang or other agencies bankroll these glitzy pools for this  small town burg?  Then Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez couldn’t be bothered.

A month before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stepped down, Genuino remitted P345 million to the President’s Social Fund (PSF).“ That boodle came from Pagcor earnings for April 2010, plus advance remittances for June 2010.  Four days earlier Pagcor funneled P80.2 million, also docked against Pagcor’s income for April 2010.

Pabaon?” Whatever, GMA extended Genuino’s appointment a full year after her own Malacanang term ended, Genuino displayed that midnight extension to President Benigno  Aquino — who showed him to the door.

Since then, new sheriffs rode into town P-Noy appointed  Leila de Lima as ustice Secretary. He named former Supreme Court  Justice Conchita Carpio Morales as the new Ombudsman.  These ladies do not suffer fools gladly.

Morales’ dissent on the Arroyo’ court decision, allowing Eduardo Cojuangco to pocket P16.2 million of San Miguel shares, bought with coco levies wrung from small farmers, still resonates.

Leila de Lima issued hold departure orders (HDOs)  against Genuino and children Erwin and Sheryl, which the Supreme Court upheld.  Pagcor sued  Genuino, and 38 officials, for “siphoning ” P186 million allegedly to aid the election bid of daughter Sheryl’s party-list group.

Los Banos market vendors may face stiffly jacked up stall rents, “Guess who is building a new complex that can accommodate displaced market vendors?”, De La Torre asks. “Will vendors at ‘crossing’ move to ‘Centro’?”

Inquirer will mark, next week, the 25th anniversary of People Power, Angioline Loredo emailed from New York. “Viewpoint “noted” how Edsa spiraled into Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Uprising”,  Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution” and Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolt.”   “After all these years, Edsa still brings out ‘wish-I-were-there” envy in me.

“PBS here showed an old documentary of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution”.  It started with spontaneous mass singing of patriotic songs at  the Tallinn Song Festival in 1987.”  It took four years for  Estonians  to wrest independence thru songs. Was the difference cultural? Like Libyans, Filipinos are volatile. Contrasted with Estonian “reserve” Or are these just my  half-baked attempts at social psychology?    

“Senator Panfilo Lacson browbeats witnesses at hearings”, gripes Dr Carolina Camara from Cagayan de Oro.  “How I wish Lacson and colleagues had the gravitas of a Claro Recto, integrity of an Oscar Ledesma,  polish of an Emmanuel Pelaez and incisiveness of a Jovito Salonga. What we have today are dregs.”

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