>> Saturday, May 24, 2008

After the deluge
Victims of Supertyphoon Cosme in northern and central Luzon are still trying to rebuild from the destruction it wrought. In Pangasinan, considered the province hardest hit by the storm, there is still no electricity in most towns while some areas are still submerged.

In other parts of northern Luzon like the Cordillera, some roads are still closed as a result of landslides while the price of rice is still up. Business is affected like tourism. The bangus industry is reeling wherein fishers and dealers have to contend with low prices even as the fish is seen to become scarce in the next three months.

This, as oil companies are saying they had to increase fuel prices as a “matter of survival,” like they are not gaining huge profits. Food is more expensive and the job market cold. Adding confusion is an archbishop from the south saying it is better for the country to have more food than cheaper fuel, like these are not interconnected – when oil prices go up, tendency is for prices of commodities like food to go up.

Every year, government officials say during dry months they have contingency measures for calamities like storms in preparation for rainy months. But everytime a typhoon strikes, most government offices are caught flat-footed while roads are closed, barangays are submerged and power lines are down.

Programs regarding disaster control or management are reactive, not proactive. Following Cosme, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane said he has ordered the reconstitution of a task force to repair or replace national bridges and public buildings found to be in critical condition.

President Arroyo also signed Friday a law that would provide more financial and development assistance to micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the country. These should have been done earlier.

Governance should not be used as a means to promote self-interest. Government should be about breakthrough results, not an endless discussion about the best practices that are unrelated to the core process of day-to-day pursuit after results that should make a difference in the life of the governed – who are paying the officials to stay in office with their taxes.

Esperon as peace adviser an irony
If the appointment of retired General Hermogenes Esperon as the president's adviser on peace process is being assailed, it is because people perceive he is not fit for the job given the dismal human rights record of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during his term as AFP chief.

Even government officials are questioning his appointment like Sen Chiz Escudero. “It would be difficult for Esperon and the public to reconcile his previous role as a combatant with his new-found position in the peace negotiation. How can he advise GMA on peace if all he did throughout his career is search and destroy the enemy?”

The opposition senator has reservations on Esperon making "unity attractive" to those considered by government as insurgents. "For someone to sit in the peace negotiating table, he or she has to provide the stimulus to forge genuine peace and end the long standing war and impunities from both sides. He has to provide the momentum to also resolve other conflicts in the country thorough democratic processes."

Trust and respect from both sides should be present to gather everyone on the peace negotiation table. But with Esperon who furiously implemented the counter-insurgency program that was deemed a ticket to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by the UN special rapporteur, the senator said Esperon "might find himself a square peg in a round hole".

The senator, like many constituents of this Banana Republic, believes there are other people who are a lot qualified and suitable to the job and who can command acceptability and respect to the parties involved in the peace agreement.

But despite serious doubts about Esperon, the senator said he wishes him well since he welcomes the job in a tight embrace. “Let us just hope that he can usher democratic transformation in the country's search for a long lasting reconciliation and peace.”

Escudero may have some hope on the capability of Esperon to be a good human rights advocate but for the families and relatives of victims of human rights violations under his tenure as AFP chief, his appointment was a kiss of death.


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