On Aug. 21, 1983, the country was abuzz with talks of the arrival of popular opposition leader, Senator Benigno Aquino. Then under the fearsome grip of the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, the people’s excitement could not be contained. There was no other political figure who could pose a real challenge to Marcos, except the ebullient and articulate Ninoy. His incarceration and personal sacrifice for the country made him a hero long before his life was snuffed out on that fateful day.
As it happened to be my birthday, my Manoy Merong in Cebu called up and teasingly asked if Ninoy was going to be our special guest for dinner. Little did we know that a few kilometers from Las Pinas, where we then resided, the gunshots that killed Ninoy that moment at the airport tarmac would break free the shackles of fear, abuses and oppression that lingered for so long under the Marcos dictatorship.
The events that followed Ninoy’s assassination – from the long queues of multitude paying their last respect for their courageous idol, the unprecedented funeral witnessed by millions, the daily confetti showers in Ayala Avenue, the massive rallies demanding the exit of Marcos, culminating in his wife, Cory, taking her oath as the 11th President and the first woman President of the Republic, through People Power – were astonishing. We finally woke up from our deep slumber of immobility, lulled by fear and apathy. We vigorously took a stand against the tyrants of democracy – but not for long.
Twenty eight years after that fateful day in August, the nation is again picking up the pieces of years of misrule of President Arroyo. She was ironically installed through People Power Part II, our own “ato kani” brand of legacy we were so proud to share with the world.
Our deep desire for change and belief in the values of sincerity, honesty, decency and courage that Ninoy and Cory instilled in their offspring and placed Noynoy Aquino where he is now. President Aquino has the difficult role of living up to the high standards that his parents and the people set up for the holder of the highest office of the land. Thankfully, his unprecedented initiative of eradicating the mindset of entitlement on the part of public servants is taking roots. Leading by example, he issued a Memorandum in August, 2010 directing executive agencies “to refrain from associating the President’s personality and identity in their program and projects.” His well-publicized display of disappointment when he saw his face in the Bureau of Immigration’s departure card revealed his sincerity.
DPWH stopped the placement of names and pictures of politicians on government projects. Gone are the days when the politician’s faces would dominate and deface the landscape.
In September, 2010, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo prohibited the practice of “putting up billboards and signage and other information materials bearing the names, initials or pictures of government personalities on all government projects, and properties (fire trucks, ambulances, vehicles, etc.).” However, in Cebu, the e-GWEN Program is still being mouthed and advertised, as if there is no ban.
As if it is not enough, as reported in last Saturday’s issue of Cebu Daily News, Governor Gwen Garcia incredulously led the inauguration of the so-called eGWEN Avenue. This led law student Nelson Bandoles to react “How can that be? The Local Government Code prohibits the naming of streets after a living person?”
We call the immediate attention of DILG Director Pedro Noval who is tasked to monitor the compliance of DILG Memorandum Circular 2010-101 dated September 23, 2010 in Cebu. He has the authority to stop this brazen display of patronage politics which has been rendered irrelevant by clear policies of the Executive Department.
The reason for the prohibition is easy to decipher and which the Circular specifically declared, thus: “The practice of putting up billboards or signages bearing the names, initials and images of government officials on government programs and projects has been noticeably abused and misused by some public officials for their personal interest and has taken the credit away from the taxpayers who pay for such programs through their tax payment.”
With the foregoing and the filing of cases against the “untouchables” in the past administration, the President’s renewed fight against the wangwang mentality that was and is tearing people and officials apart, and our collective determination to make things right this time, there is hope.
With an engaged citizenry asserting their rights, rekindled faith in the system and in the institutions, as well as in our strong belief in our capacity to help effect change in our own communities, there should be a better tomorrow, especially for the children and the generations after them. By being active in governance, we are honoring Noynoy and our heroes who sacrificed their lives for us.
Ninoy and Cory will always be remembered for paving the way for Filipinos to enjoy the hard-fought democratic space that is now a reality. Today and every day, we say “Thank you“ to our valiant heroes and shout “Never again” to authoritarianism and the trifling of our human rights.
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The Supreme Court recently issued a writ of kalikasan as a result of the petition filed on August 9 to stop mining operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula and in the country. Petitioners sought judicial intervention due to respondent agencies’ “senseless and indiscriminate mineral extraction over its entire mountains and uplands”, as 51% of the peninsula’s land mass has been opened for mining. The threat to the environment is real. DENR and other agencies are required to answer within 10 days from their receipt of the Order. The writ of kalikasan is a remedy under the trail-blazing Procedural Rules for Environmental Cases afforded to people, enforcement agencies and non-government organizations, to protect the environment and stop the damage or even perceived damage to ecosystems.
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While we commend the Cebu City Government in its political will to enforce the waste segregation policy under R.A. 9003, we are gravely concerned about a seemingly lack of transparent and participatory process in the siting of a landfill facility. Agsungot, a watershed area, is considered a potential site. The provisions of R.A. 9003 and its IRR leave no room for doubt that a waste disposal facility is prohibited in or near environmentally critical areas such as watersheds, rivers, seas and sources of water. The rationale is obvious. Or, do we need to spell it out?
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