Finally, there is hope for commuters to get relief from the daily grief of taking the Metro Rail Transit Line 3. Reports of Metro Pacific Investment Corporation’s takeover of MRT should bring much needed reforms in the operation of the public transport system.
Manny Pangilinan, MPIC chief honcho, said his group is prepared to buy out the shares of government and other private sector stakeholders. No definite amount for the sale of shares was provided by the MPIC conglomerate. But knowing the financial capacity of MVP and his Salim partners in Indonesia, the takeover of the vital public transport system should signal the easing of traffic along Edsa. Let’s hope the Light Rail Transit that runs from Baclaran along Taft Avenue to the Bonifacio monument in Caloocan gets the same attention as the MRT.
For sure, the new MRT owners will raise fares to recoup their investment and capital outlays for additional new carriages and replacement of the non-compatibility of the MRT old rails with the wheels of the new trains bought from the Chinese company Dalian. But commuters would be willing to increase fares as long as the trains are working and running on time.
Retired General Danny Lim, Metro Manila Development Authority, chairman, is already doing his part in clearing Edsa of illegal bus terminals within the city. These bus terminals contribute to the congestion of the circumferential highway. We would like to think this corner helped in the removal of these bus terminals through its constant nagging in several columns.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has accepted the resignation of Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and replaced him with former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Isidro Lapeña. This can only indicate the President is aware of the gravity of the drug problem that his relentless bloody war on drugs is being circumvented by his Chinese friends in Beijing. Shabu laboratories that have sprouted around the country are also being operated by Chinese nationals as shown by the number of arrests made.
Whether Lapeña can clean up the endemic corruption at the BOC is a big challenge. In the words of Senator Panfilo Lacson during the Senate investigation on how P6.2 billion worth of smuggled shabu cleared Customs through the green lane, corruption at Customs is so deep and no matter who heads it,” he will be only eaten up and swallowed by the system.”
In a press conference held yesterday, Faeldon said he told President Duterte to relieve him “while I can still recognize myself.”
The Senate inquiry into the extent of corruption at Customs has taken an ugly turn. The names of presidential son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte was dragged into the case as part of the Davao group which allegedly has a big influence in the release of cargo at the BOC. Yesterday outgoing Customs Commissioner Faeldon, in turn implicated the son of Senator Lacson as one of the biggest smuggler of cement into the country. He said that Panfilo Lacson, Jr.’s company, Buon Giorno with only a paid-up capital of P20,000, imported millions of pesos in cement. During his press conference, Faeldon waved documents he supposedly had against Lacson and his son. He then distributed the documents to members of the media.
Can Lapeña do something about the institutionalized corruption at the BOC? Corruption, as every one knows, is so pervasive at the country’s main gateway for goods and other imported products. From the time the smuggled shipment is landed at the port of entry in Manila, corruption starts at the assessment and inspection section and down the line up to the final exit gate where complicit guards want a piece of the action.
Lifestyle checks on Customs personnel, it seems, are not working. Even lowly employees at the BOC are widely known to own pricey houses, several rental apartments and expensive cars. Yet, they have not been prosecuted. This culture of impunity is a major factor in the continuation of corruption at Customs and other government agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
It looks like things are coming to a head against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista. Lawyers Manuelito Luna and Ferdinand Topacio are at the forefront of the impeachment case against Bautista. An impeachment process has been initiated at the House of Representatives. But based on the evidence gathered by Topacio and Luna, the House will have to act and start an impeachment hearing. Not to do so would make the House remiss in their constitutional duty.
Aside from not reporting his true financial state in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as required of public officials, Bautista admitted he received payment as referral fees from the Divina Law Firm for referring Smartmatic as client. His estranged wife Patricia also provided documents. As everyone knows, there is a conflict of interest here because the Venezuelan company is the counting machine system provider for elections supervised by the Comelec.
This issue raises concern about the integrity of elections held under Bautista’s short watch as Comelec chief. This includes the 2010 national and local elections.