August 12, 2006 Issue
1. Trapped in Hell
Malacañang on Monday frustrates the Senate investigation into the funding problem in the evacuation of thousands of Filipino migrants from war-torn Lebanon. Despite the administrations loss of its appeal of the Supreme Court ruling striking down EO 464 as unconstitutional (the ruling became final last month), the Palace forbids officials of the Overseas Workers Welfare Fund, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor to testify at the joint hearing called by the Senate committees on foreign relations and labor. More than 30,000 Filipino migrants are trapped in the fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas. They are hunkering in the Philippine embassy and in churches in Beirut as Israeli missiles and bombs crush Hezbollah positions in the capital and most of southern Lebanon. Fewer than 3,000 have returned home on chartered and scheduled flights, mostly through the mercy of the International Organization for Migration, a group that works with the United Nations. Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Al Francis Bichara has disclosed a shortage of funds, which explains why the migrants are being evacuated only in trickles. The migrants remit billions of dollars every year$12 billion last yearshoring up the economy and propping up the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Now that they need help, their government is slow to come to their aid, resorting instead to asking for help from other countries to get them out of the war zone. The foreign office denies the shortage of funds and threatens Bichara with an investigation. The OWWA says it has P2 billion and has sent money to Beirut. Bichara, according to the foreign office has apologized for the disclosure, but the ambassador tells the Senate investigation through a patched phone call that as of Monday no money has reached the embassy in Beirut. Where is the migrants money? A Greek shipping magnate has offered to use one of his ships to ferry Filipino migrants from Beirut to Nicosia, in Cyprus, and IOM is again moving Filipino migrants from Beirut, paying for their trip by buses to Damascus and their plane trip from there to Manila. Shame! The migrants will have a respite from fear for two days as a result of another Israeli mistakean air strike on Monday kill 60 people, mostly civilians, among them children, in Qana. The conflict is threatening to escalate, with Israel rejecting international calls for a cease-fire. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is back in the region, saying shes pushing for an immediate cease-fire, although the US stand, and of course Britains, is to isolate Hezbollah, which may be provocating Iran, Hezbollahs patron, for the United States and Britain to take military action against Iran, which stubbornly refuses to give up its nuclear program despite threats of sanctions from the United Nations. Does the Manila government understand whats going on the Middle East? Acting Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, whose nomination the congressional Commission on Appointment has yet to confirm, says he cannot see what sort of legislation can come out of the Senate investigation. Doesnt he know that the Arroyo administration has no policy, no organized plan, for rescuing Filipino migrants in distress in faraway countries? Stupid!
By Ricky S. Torre
2. Expect Nothing
There are now eight impeachment complaints against President Arroyo but none of them is likely to survive in the House of Representatives. Mrs. Arroyos majority allies in the House are going to kill all the complaints right on the Committee on Justice to clear the way for their top priority: revising the Constitution through a constituent assembly. The government-financed private organization that has gathered 10 million signatures to force the revision is going to the Commission on Elections this month to petition for a referendum on the constituent assembly.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
3. Running from Justice
Jocelyn Bolante, President Arroyos point man in the administration operation to buy votes in the 2004 presidential election, is seeking asylum in the United States. Bolante is alleging a threat to his life coming from the communist New Peoples Army. NPA spokesman Gregorio Rosal and National Democratic Front official Luis Jalandoni have both denied that Bolante is on an NPA hit list. A group of Filipino lawyers from the University of the Philippines is blocking Bolantes application for asylum in US immigration court, but Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, showing where the administrations sympathies lie, says the lawyers opposition is just propaganda. Bolante, whose US visa the US State Department canceled under the Bush administrations no safe haven policy, is being processed for removal, but his application for asylum can prolong his stay in the United States, enabling him to continue to dodge a Senate investigation into the misuse of agriculture funds for Mrs. Arroyos presidential campaign.
4. War of Attrition
It seems the Arroyo administration has found a way to stop the campaign of One Voice to educate the people on the proposed revision of the Constitution: choking the groups source of funds. President Arroyos allies in Congress have begun insinuating administrations plans to go after the businessmen who finance the One Voice campaign through the taxman. They probably know who the donors are. If these businessmen can be sufficiently cowed to withdraw their support for One Voice, this groups campaign to block Mrs. Arroyos strategy to save her presidency could stop. Bakbakan na lang!
By Manuel L. Quezon III
5. Campaign Kitty
Giving up on the 2006 budget, the administration is now working for passage of a supplemental budget supposedly to finance its priority projects. The Senate, whose opposition to a suspicious spending of P64 billion in Mrs. Arroyos proposed P1.05 trillion budget, is chary about the supplemental budget. The administration insists part of the supplemental budget is for development in the villages, but the senators suspect the administrations real priority is financing an operation to buy votes in a referendum for a peoples initiative for the revision of the Constitution.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
6. Really Stupid
Guess whos to blame for the deterioration of nursing education and the cheating in the 2006 board exam for nurses. The established nursing schools. Thats according to the Commission on Higher Education. Dont blame the fast increasing new nursing schools that are sharing instructors and even deans. These schools have been built as nurse factories to fill the big demand for Filipino nurses in the West. Dont call them fly-by-night schools. Its those old schools that are producing nurses who cannot be accepted even in local hospitals. The new nurses are incompetent because the old schools refuse to lower their standards.