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Blame Alvarez should federalism fail

I do not know what House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was up to when he threatened local government units with a zero budget if they did not toe the line in the Duterte administration’s pursuit of a federal system of government.

Perhaps he was trying to be cute, imitating the President who also likes to make threats. The law however says that the Speaker cannot just deprive LGUs of their budget. They also partake of the revenues of the national government.

And now Alvarez says he was just joking. But why joke on a matter of national interest?

If he did this just to grab headlines, well, he certainly succeeded. But it came at the cost of his credibility.

Was Alvarez also joking when he said that the House would go it alone in amending the 1987 Constitution? He says they do not need the Senate. They would just have the people ratify the proposed charter in a plebiscite called for the purpose.

It’s a joke all right. He and his minions in the so-called supermajority are treading on thin ice. The Constitution is clear that Congress is composed of two chambers: The Senate and the House of Representatives.

Were the framers of the 1987 Constitution just joking when they came up with this provision?

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Perhaps realizing that amending the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for a federal-parliamentary system of government is the ultimate dream of his boss, Alvarez and his minions are stepping back from the plan to hold a plebiscite simultaneous with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on May 14.

He wanted to save on funds, he said.

“But if, for example, we are not able to comply with the requirements of the law in time, then we will adjust the timetable,” he added. Did he just say he would railroad constitutional amendments in pursuit of Duterte’s dream?

Can we still ever believe Alvarez?

He is the best argument against the House tinkering with the Constitution. Does not the President realize this just yet?

* * *

On the part of President Duterte, we all know his style of making threats he does not really mean. He even says atrocious things when he is angry or dismayed. We are all familiar with his ways now.

This, when he ordered security forces to shoot him if he remained in office beyond his six-year term, did he mean that literally?

I have been a journalist for 70 years and have seen 10 presidents come and go. I can easily say right now that Mr. Duterte was not speaking literally.

He also threatened to slap Jose Ma. Sison. It’s just hyperbole.

I have learned early on to not interpret the President’s words literally. His words make good newspaper headlines, but it would be unfair to judge Mr. Duterte on what he says during his many rambling speeches.

* * *

The Social Weather Stations showed no less than 3.6-million families experiencing involuntary hunger.

This is ironic since the country has been labelled as the fastest-growing economy in Asia with forecast GDP growth of 6.7 percent for 2017. So while the economy is supposed to be growing strong, the growth is not inclusive at all.

The Philippines is still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to per capita income, foreign investments and business competitiveness. Easing poverty was the President’s foremost promise, but when? Poverty is the reason we have problems in illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.

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Sanofi Pasteur, the giant pharmaceutical company from France, has agreed to refund over P1 billion worth of unused Dengvaxia vaccine. This is in connection with the P3.5-billion deal entered into by the Aquino administration nearing the 2016 elections. Sanofi has also agreed to pay for the expense causing the ultimate death of those who have been vaccinated.

All this is welcome news, but we should not forget that the issue was caused by the Aquino government, particularly by BS Aquino III who negotiated the P3.5-billion deal just before the 2016 polls to boost the stock of Mar Roxas, his candidate.

It was also shown that former Health Secretary Janette Garin was at fault for implementing the deal, and even personally meeting with Sanofi executives. Finally, former Budget secretary Florencio Abad violated Commission on Audit rules and regulations when he used “savings” to fund the deal.

These former officials should be made culpable for what they have done.

* * *

There is now a controversy about the award given by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association to Communications assistant secretary Mocha Uson. The student council has denounced it and the university has distanced itself from the alumni group’s decision.

If I were Mocha, I would not have accepted the award. The university itself did not recognize it. It has zero value.

Malacañang is elated. But of course!

All these just tell us that awards are subjective and may be given to anybody, whether or not they deserve.

Topics: Federalism
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