Friday, November 30, 2007


(UNDERTOW - The Philippine Chronicle, May 12, 2007)

Giant telecommunications firms here in the country such as Globe and Smart have for some time now become favorite targets of the New People's Army (NPA). The numerous cell sites that cater to our number one pastime, perhaps second only to gossiping and politicking are often burned to the ground as part of the NPA's extortion of revolutionary taxes. Each time we encounter a headline like "NPA Attacks Cell Site" - most likely it is because the cellphone company has not paid its monthly dues to the insurgents. In addition to this, do you know that the NPA attacks more Globe cell sites than Smart cell sites by far, as evidenced by Google? Check it out yourself if you don't believe me and see that in an overwhelming majority of the cases over the years, Globe spends much more money in rebuildng its damaged cell sites compared to Smart. So, is it possible that Smart pays revolutionary taxes to the NPA to protect its sites? Or maybe Smart even gives free cellphones and load to the NPA, the better to coordinate their attacks on ... Globe?

After hopefully deciding which candidates to vote for, it will be that time once again for us to troop to our respective precincts and cast our votes on Monday. I must admit though that my senatorial list was quite a struggle to fill and remains almost half full - or half empty depending on how one views things. They are: Chavit Singson, Gringo Honasan, Martin Bautista, Chiz Escudero and Sonny Trillanes. That's it. Chavit because I know him well enough to make judgment that he is a good man and a true defender and advocate of the 'probinsiyanos.' I have worked with him closely in the past and his heart is not only GI or 'genuine ilocano,' but also genuinely for the common man, the oppressed and the marginalized. So, no matter what one thinks and says of Chavit, he still has my vote. Gringo, because I also know him personally as a true officer and gentleman, a man of honor and valor, and contrary to the other candidates who have chosen to be fence-sitters, Gringo on the other hand has chosen to jump fences! Martin, simply because I don't know him at all to make judgment, but I must say that I am quite impressed with his vision for our country. He seems like a real honest and well-meaning guy, packed with certain qualities one would find hard to see in most of our candidates. It's time for a new doctor in the Senate, don't you agree? Chiz, because he can talk to you with all sincerity and spunk, and with a fiery conviction for the truth without blinking an eye (that's because he doesn't make eye contact whenever he speaks), and except for the fact that he speaks in a telegram-like monotone, he too gets my vote as well. Sonny Trillanes because he definitely has guts and will do anything for the country. He has vision and 'cojones,' which many around don't have even just one. He has many fanatic followers and definitely will be Malacanang's headache. One other fellow I'm sorely missing in this senatorial race is my good friend law professor Alan Paguia. And just like Gov. Singson who I worked closely with during the 'Juetengate' scandal, I have on the other hand joined hands with Attorney Paguia during the 'Gloriagate' scandal. Alan was teaching law in the other law school - Ateneo that is, when his brilliant career (upholding and teaching the law) was cut short by an indefinite suspension slapped by the Supreme Court. It was easier for the high court to suspend him instead of just answering the questions he lodged at then SC Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and the other justices regarding EDSA 2. Legions of Filipinos relate perfectly to Alan's questions, and the issue on his case with the SC remains a big question mark to this day. But that's another story to tell someday. As for the other candidates like Butch Pichay, well of course he's on my list too - my grocery list of vegetables I shall be buying in the market for my next week's 'kim-chi.'

A Google map showing the Pandacan Oil Depot (POD), Manila's incendiary hub which encompasses both banks of the Pasig river, serves as an eye-opener as one is shown numerous oil and gasoline storage tanks. Right to the west of the river shows the Malacanang palace grounds including the presidential quarters. On the northern side of the area, one sees the LRT-2 system, which on a daily basis transports thousands of passengers to and from their respective destinations. Boarding passengers are subjected to a security check by guards equipped with lethargic Labradors and state-of-the-art wooden chopsticks that poke the contents of their bags. And of course, all around this highly combustible situation are slums, ghettoes, business establisments and residences. An explosion of gargantuan proportion may well obliterate its immediate neighbors including, God forbid (really?) Malacanang to kingdom come. But don't blame me for reminding would-be terrorists of the idea. I'm sure they know about it already too well. This is public knowledge and has caused jitters to the populace living in the vicinity, perhaps even transforming some individuals into nervous insomniacs. Which reminds me, a few years ago, a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) station in Mexico exploded resulting in the deaths of about 600 people and injuring roughly 7,000. A similar incident in Pandacan would be a thousand times or so more disastrous, possibly causing much more deaths. Thus, I believe that the continued existence of the Pandacan Oil Depot (POD) is a mega-major disaster just waiting to happen. Quite recently, students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) suffered extreme nausea and were continuously retching after having been exposed to a leak from a tank in the depot located near their school. An investigation pointed to a high concentration of a Benzene compound rich in carcinogenic substance. The U.S. Toxicology Institute (USTI) noted that peoplel living in Pandacan are at a high risk of contracting various types of cancers. Further, the continued presence of the oil depot simply violates the 'Clean Air Act,' and the health of around 90,000 is at a high risk. In 2001, the Manila City Council passed an ordinance that would eventually drive out the depot, giving the big three oil companies Shell, Petron and Caltex only up to April 2003. Sadly so, their transfer was botched when a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Mayor Lito Atienza and the oil firms was signed, allowing them to stay put to this day. Perhaps MAYNILA should now be the acronym for: 'Maraming AYaw Nang Isuporta si Lito Atienza,' for one gets the impression that he simply doesn't care about their health and their safety. And in the event of such a disaster, our authorities would act a little too late again while pointing fingers at each other. What must be done to prevent such a thing from happening? The answer is obvious. Manilenos have the power to do something about this on May 14. And on a national scale, we Filipinos in general for matters concerning the quality of our lives. Remember, an election is a decisive bet on the future and not a popularity test of the past.
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