Archive for March, 2007

A ritual of summer

THE annual recognition ceremony for our community elementary school took place yesterday, in the heat of the morning sun; thankfully, it was over a little past 10:30 am, thanks to the tight program prepared by the Grandview Elementary School management headed by Luis Marasigan, its officer-in-charge.

So how did my worried Grade V son fare this time? Well, Budi wound up a fighting fourth; on the basis of academic grades alone (which I think account for 70% of the total grade), his performance this year would have been good for 2nd, which is what he did last year. But then again, Budi will have his final chance next school year when he moves on to Grade VI.

Nonetheless, he ended up with the most number of special academic and non-academic awards, including being the best performer in Filipino -- a subject all my three children in public school, starting from Ezekiel down to Sofia, are having trouble with, but seems to have conquered this year! Maybe this thing helped after all, Irvin?:)

My future little teacher Sofie, in addition to the "Best in Filipino" award, also got fourth. But she, I think -- and this is not because I'm playing favorite -- has more upside than Budi if performance trends are considered.

At the tender age of six after finishing Grade I two years ago (Sofie was only 5 years old when we enrolled her), she was scratched from the honor rolls; that was the year then Education Secretary Butch Abad decreed -- correctly, I think -- that there should only be one set of awardees per grade level regardless of the number of sections there are in a school. That year, Section B contributed most of the honor students, simply because their teacher was more liberal in grade-giving.

Last year, Sofie cracked the Top 10, good for 8th place; this time around, she leapfrogged over older classmates to take fourth, within striking distance of the perennial top performers. Competitive like Budi, and blessed with extraordinary diligence that she got from her mother, my Patsy Bulatse is aiming higher in these next three years.

How about Ezekiel? Lynn texted me last Friday that our eldest dropped out of the Top 10 again, but still within the Top 20, more than enough to stay in the Engineering Science Education Project (ESEP) class of Cam High next year if he chooses to. But to his credit, he did very well in the recent national and division achievement tests, topping Mathematics and Filipino.

So on the whole, in this annual ritual of summer, our family remains to have a lot to be thankful, and our kids a lot more to do, and far more grounds to cover. Whether they will commit themselves to higher personal goals and make the requisite sacrifice these entail, or enjoy the view and smell the flowers along the way, is largely up to them: their father, mother and lola will always be around as guide until they become ready to take on life on their own.
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Notes after Day 1

1. THE Villafuerte telenovela

PUT IT 1-0 in favor of LRay.

Yesterday morning, a battle of press conferences marked the first salvo in the war for the hearts and minds of the electorate, simulcast in leading radio stations in Naga.

I did not see the bizarre father-and-son conflict make it into national TV the other night, for the entire nation to see, when deadline for filing of candidacies for local posts came. But snippets of the younger Villafuerte's press con I heard, and his father's riposte a few minutes later.

Luis, Jr. spilled the guts on why he defied his father's wishes, naming names and events that otherwise were only being whispered hereabouts -- a powerful paramour who tried to continue controlling Capitol even when he already assumed office, and shenanigans involving his father's loyalists and inherited staff (whom he fired).

It conveyed the image of an offended son who had to make the tough decisions in trying to set things right, which is what he thought his father asked of him when he left his multimillion-peso export business to continue their family's legacy of public service.

These revelations clearly jarred the putative House Speaker of the next Philippine Congress. In his own presscon, I never thought that Rep. Luis Villafuerte is capable of speaking in a meek, even hushed, voice but -- voilà! -- he did. In this emerging theatre of the absurd, it was all too surreal! That alone demonstrated that his junior had the upperhand.

But the undertones notwithstanding, Luis the father still spewed venoms at his son's direction, accusing him becoming a wayward child who needs to be disciplined, of being corrupted by power (I thought the Ring had been long destroyed by the fires of Mordor, but it seems to have reappeared in the land of Isarog), of running amok with the Capitol's finances, and of engaging in grand corruption that is more than sufficient to cause his downfall.

The situation has clearly degenerated into the pot-calling-the-kettle-back kind of thing; the elder Villafuerte's problem is, his son's revelations have the ring of truth, which is critical in the 45-day mind games ahead of us; and worse, the LRay kettle's teflon-like shiny sheen is keeping the allegations from sticking.

2. The House of Fuentebella

After these all happened, the political leaders of 3rd district Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, the first Bikolano House Speaker and the last during the Erap regime, gathered together in their house in Barangay Abella to proclaim the family's local candidates in Partido, which is how the district is more popularly known.

Fuentebella's speech was mostly broadcast live over my favorite station, RMN-DWNX, which only affirmed where its loyalties lay all along. But I think the most important, unstated message is that of differentiation: that while the House of Villafuerte, their biggest political rival, is being consumed by fire, the House of Fuentebella has remained strong, "a model we are offering for others to consider," in Noli's own words.

This year, the family is celebrating its own centennial, dating back to 1907 when Jose Fuentebella, who later would become a representative to the Philippine Legislature, senator of the republic and ambassador to Indonesia, joined politics and entered public service. It is widely expected that it will back LRay's reelection bid against former Tourism Secretary and Postmaster General Eduardo Pilapil -- who beat the Fuentebellas in 1987 and is now being fielded by Luis the father against his son.

3. Leni Robredo

Reelectionist Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo has managed to convince his wife Leni to file her own certificate of candidacy as mayor at the last minute, his insurance just in case the reported disqualification effort being cooked up by political rivals against him -- in the deepest bowels of Comelec central office in Intramuros -- prospers. The usual complaint by the usual suspects is his alleged Chinese citizenship.

If given due course, this absurdity will surely rival the unfolding telenovela of his kins. And the odds are that it just might -- notwithstanding the fact that Robredo has served Naga for five terms already, racking up local, national and international recognitions for the city and the country in the process, foremost of them the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service.

Well, you really can never tell, with a Comelec that took its own sweet time before finally declaring Joselito "Juju" Cayetano as a nuisance senatorial candidate; that refuses to reveal who are the individuals running by way of the party list route, because it will expose the dirty Malacañang connection to all and sundry; and that junked Ateneo professor Danton Remoto and his Ladlad partylist group while giving due course to the senatorial bid of an obvious fake and his phony political party. And of course, with Raul Gonzales as secretary of (in)justice.

The sweet irony that might come out of this is it might just accelerate the fulfillment of their political rivals' deepest fears: of Robredo eventually fielding Leni when he is again term-limited in 2010. (Although I think they're way too decent to take this route; why does the word "differentiation" come to mind over and over again?)

The other day, James Adams, the World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, visited Naga together with country representative Joachim von Amsberg and other high ranking bank officials. I have a feeling the bank, not to mention other international development institutions, will only be too willing to take in a suddenly jobless Jesse Robredo and put him alongside former La Paz, Bolivia mayor Ronald MacLean-Abaroa in the World Bank Institute.
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Rain or Shine

March 30th, 2007 No comments
Shop P2190547 P2190548 Just received these photos from Kathy Grace. Her business is doing well.
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Paggiromdom sa sarong istasyon nin tren

March 30th, 2007 No comments
Dekada otsenta hanggan sa mga enot na taon kan dekada nobenta sakong namatean an magayon na serbisyo kan perokaril sa Kabikolan. Sabi kan mga nagkaerenot pang marhay sako, orog daang labi-kagayon an perokaril kaidto, na totoo man nanggad ta kun mahihiling ta an mga lumang ladawan kan mga tren kaidto, yaon an gayon asin pagiging elegante. Alagad sa ngunyan daing biyahe an tren haling Manila pasiring Bikol, dara kan distroso kan mga nakaaging kalamidad, asin laen pa man kayan an kadakulon na mga dahilan kun tadaw ta an satong pangenot na sasakyan palyado—kun bakong mayo—na ngunyan.

Sa Bikol, an mga riles tuninong na, hupa na an makaskas na ritmo kan nagraralagatak na bakal pag minaagi an tren, mayo na dagubdob na madadangog sa makinang paaboton, mayong silbato an mawarak sa tuninong na duros kan amay na pagkaaga o pagkahapon. Huli man digdi, an mga doot, amorseko, maroy-paroy, turug-turog, asin kadyapa libre asin dikit-dikit nang minatahob sa tinataklang mga bakal hanggan an enterong riles dai na mahiling asin an mga trabiyesa padagos nang malapa asin malingawan.

Sa pagsirip sa mamundong kamugtakan na ini, nakabalik ako duman sa dati ming erokan sa Lupi kun saen an pangenot na sasakyan kan ako nagdadakula duman iyo an tren. Pag kami minapasiring sa Naga, kinakaipuhan ming magmatang amay ta an tren minaagi mga alas kuwatro sa kaliputi kan maagahon. Nasa likod kan istasyon an samong harong kaya hinahalat mi na sana an pagparada kan tren para magsakay.

Sa sakong giromdom, kan mga dekada otsenta, igwang walong tren—apat haling Manila pa-Bikol, asin apat man na haling Bikol pa-Manila—an minabiyahe aro-aldaw. Yaon an ordinary na Train-574 sa pagkaaga, an ordinary man na Train-573 sa pagkahapon, tapos an Mayon Limited na minaaging amay sa pagkabanggi, asin an Peñafrancia Express na minaagi sa Lupi kaidto mga alas nuwebe nin banggi. Laen pa sa mga ini, pag aldaw, may minaaging halabang tren nin mga bagon na an inaapod kaidtong merkansya. Kadaklan sa mga bagon na ini may laog harina gikan sa Philippine Flour Mill sa Hondagua, Quezon, asin man kopra hali sa manlaen-laen na parte kan Bikol. Sa Lupi, importante an merkansya, ta digdi binabiyahe an kopra na nangengenot na produkto kan banwaan na dinadara pasiring sa siyudad Lucena.

Magayon an naabtan kong istasyon kan Lupi, pan-Sulnupan an disenyo, ipinadron an lanob siring sa sarong log cabin, pinatungan nin kahoy an dati nang lanob kaining gibo sa birilog na gapo, asin an atop gibo pa sa mapulang laboy siring sa kolor kan koron asin dulay. Para sako, an dating istasyon kan Lupi an pinakamagayon sa gabos na istasyon nin tren sa Filipinas. Sa istasyon na idto ako nagdakula, nagkawat, napadapla, nakitaguan, nakilamagan, asin dakul pang mga eksperyensya na naghurma sa sakong pagkatao. Dakul na istorya man an nahaman sa istasyon sana, may maogma, may dapit sa pagmorootan, asin dakul man an katatakutan huli ta an istasyon nakatugdok na kan panahon pa man kan mga Amerikano, asin dakul an sinasabing ginaradan digdi kan panahon nin Hapon. An samong harong na haros katakod kan istasyon naging garrison pa kan mga Hapon asin kadakol na mga Filipino an sinasabing pinasakitan kun bako man na ginadan duman.

Kasabay kan pagpula kan kalangitan sa pagkahapon, an istasyon dikit-dikit na napapano nin mga pasaherong pa-norteng parte kan Luzon, kun bako man pa-Manila, kaiba man an saindang mga parahatod. Minaribok an istasyon, ribok na dikit na sana agid na sa saudan. Maribok, alagad maogma, huli ta pano nin buhay. Yaon man an mga paratinda nin manlaen-laen na produkto, pagkakan, asin puwede man na pasalubong. Minsan ngani, an mga tao mina-upak pa pag minasilbato an tren, tanda na harani na. Asin an irinutan kan mga pasahero pag minaparada na an tren, kasabay an paararaman, pagpahumale kan mga nawalat, asin an pagsarakayan kan mga gamit, asin an pagsilbato kan mga konduktor, iyo na siguro an pinakamaogmang tanawon sa istasyon. Halipot sana an panahon na ini, huli ta sa pagsalida kan tren, luway-luway naman na nauubos an mga tao sa istasyon hanggan matada liwat an mga aking nagkakarawat, hanggan sa dikit-dikit na magbalik an katoninongan, kasabay kan mga duri-duri sa pagdiklom kan banggi. An kaakian mapuruli na, inaarapod na kan mga magurang; an mga tindahan na harani sa istasyon pasaro-saro naman na nagsasarara, asin sa mga harong-harong mapamaranggi na an mga pamilya. Tapos na an sarong aldaw kan istasyon.

Asin sa sakong daghan, sa tahaw kan pagkalingaw sa mga nakaagi asin sa importansya kan mga ini, yaon an pagmawot na an mga ladawan na sakong isinaysay magkaigwa man logod liwat nin buhay.
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History repeating itself

KINS, one of them a prominent national figure, both won in the previous local election, thanks to the influence and machinery of the former.

Midway through the term, they have a nasty falling out as the up-and-coming politician begins to defy his older benefactor.

Wizened pol responds by putting up a candidate against his former protégé to stop his reelection bid.

The protégé beats the challenge and swamps his benefactor's candidate.

If you think this storyline describes the father-and-son split in Camarines Sur politics that continue to make national headlines is one of the bizarre developments in this election, think again. You may have guessed correctly that incumbent Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte is the veteran politician; but you can put incumbent Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo in his son LRay's place and the premises remain just as valid.

Flashback to those heady post-EDSA days. In 1988, LRV wins as Camarines Sur governor and his nephew Jesse barely scrapes a win in Naga. Then, they part ways -- let me point you again to this column by Joe Perez for the whys and wherefores -- and fail to reconcile.

Calling his nephew "ingrato," the incensed governor fields his sister, Pura Luisa Villafuerte-Magtuto, against Robredo. The latter wins by a landslide, towing his entire ticket to victory. Overconfident and distracted by managing the losing national campaign of then House Speaker Ramon Mitra, LRV shockingly loses the Capitol to his vice governor, the mercurial Jose "Nonoy" Bulaong.

Fastforward to 2007 and the situation is eerily familiar. LRV is now Kampi president, remains a national figure, and is eyeing to become the next House Speaker. Short of calling his own son "ingrato," he is fielding an old reliable -- former Tourism Secretary and one-time 3rd district congressman Eduardo Pilapil -- to run against LRay, who wisely remains respectful towards his father in media interviews, carefully refraining from badmouthing him as his cousin Jesse did and continues to do.

What remains to be seen is whether history will exactly repeat itself 15 years later -- that is, (a) if LRay wins, which is not exactly fartfetched; and (b) if former 2nd district congressman Sulpicio "Cho" Roco, Jr. can pull off a Bulaong and deal LRV, again heavily favored to win and become the first post-EDSA congressman to get reelected, another shocking defeat.
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ahh, end of the month-fiscal year

It's 9M and I'm still battling with our system and excel. Starving and exhausted. Fridays and end of the month are the busiest and stressful times for us in this office.

I wish I have that bangus na sinigang when I go home.

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State of the civil service

My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.

YESTERDAY, I had the opportunity to catch Civil Service Commission chair Karina Constantino-David’s address on the topic “Bureaucracy, Governance and Human Development in the Philippines.� Occasion was the 2007 general assembly of the Human Development Network (HDN), the foremost advocacy group for the propagation and mainstreaming of sustainable human development in the country.

The state of Philippine public service, as she described, is a mix of good and bad news. Let me start with the good news.

The hope of our country is in the local governments, and outside Manila. I have heard different people, highly respected in their own fields, talk about the same theme: that Philippine LGUs -- their own troubles notwithstanding -- are our last best hope. But it is the first time I heard an affirmation from no less than the chief of our most respected constitutional body today.

Of the twelve government agencies rated outstanding by its in-house evaluators -- who posed as clients in assessing service quality recently -- only two are national government agencies, David said; the rest are LGUs. And of these 12, only one was rated excellent: the city government of Marikina.

She offered two reasons why:

One, local chief executives are closer to constituents than their counterparts in the national government. The line of accountability is therefore shorter, always keeping frontline service providers -- by way of their elected bosses who interface directly with their constituents -- on their toes.

And two, the quality of staff in the provinces are way much better than their Manila-based counterparts. This stems from the fact that while Manila-based state agencies are left scraping the barrel in terms of personnel quality (with the private sector getting the crème de la crème), their provincial counterparts get the best ones of those who refuse to join the rat race in the national capital and choose to stay put.

Unfortunately, the bad news is equally formidable: at no time in the history of Philippine civil service that it is being buffeted by rank politicization as being practised by the Arroyo administration.

Someone asked why India, a far bigger democracy with a far more vast bureaucracy than ours, has a more independent civil service. The answer lies, according to David, in the strong influence of the British civil service, where a line is drawn between politicians and the professional bureaucrats.

In the Philippines, not only is the line muddled; it is also expanding rapidly to accommodate the whims and caprices of our political class, which has grown more crass -- garapal was the word David used -- over time. Where before, old-school politicians would only go so far as nudge the Commission towards a direction in their favor, today’s mayors, governors and congressmen -- from the administration and opposition alike -- shown no compunction in demanding that protégés be given or promoted to the desired position, and their political enemies removed from their present post.

Exploiting the so-called residual powers of the presidency to the hilt, the Arroyo administration has pushed the envelope in politicizing the bureaucracy much further than ever before. Today, the controversial “presidential desire letter,� which installed the least qualified but Malacañang-backed applicant, at the helm of the Development Academy of the Philippines last year, is now being issued by underlings in the President’s name. And appointments are being handed out mostly in acting capacity, to ensure that the beneficiary will always toe the Palace’s line during crunch time.

Faced with this harsh reality -- which HDN founding president Solita Monsod decried as the creeping “banality (or ordinariness) of evil,� quoting from the 2007 opus of Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo entitled “The Lucifer Effect� -- it is of little wonder then that the otherwise normally moral Filipino civil servant meekly tolerates, and even capitulates, to graft and corruption. The recent PERC survey shows just how far evil has triumphed in our benighted land.

For those interested, “The Lucifer Effect� can be downloaded through the internet as an e-Book at around US$18.
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Welcome Back to Blogosphere

  • Okay guys, it has been so long to be blogging again. Let me reminisce some things I've done last week. Monday-preparation of my students for their final exams, Tuesday-one of my class was given an examination and one of my students in that class has done a very disappointing attitude. He took a picture on the test paper of one of my student taking the exam ahead of him. Well, technology really gave us a headache..hightech gadgets to hightech cheating are rampant. Anyway, I should not be affected, I still believe "Kung anu ang tininanum iyo man ang aanihon"-in Bikol or "What you sow is what you will reap".

    That's why "some" workers or employees now a days are "manhid" or numb of doing what is wrong. Can't be trusted. Anyway, should I be affected...nope..really nope...he can do whatever he want's to do in his life. All I know God has always a place for those wrongdoers.

    Wednesday, working with my papers for having a passport(chew! so many requirements for clerical error corrections) and now I had it! I can now go anywhere I want to work. Thursday, to Friday, very busy... I was given a privileged to edit the content of my cousins "Thess" website living in Canada. The website is about an immigration services and skilled workers employment agency...wanna see Okay, those who put their trusts on us will be prioritized, of course.

Saturday, Karl Xander starting to speak words I really don't understand...."Tah tah..Mmma..uhh...uhhh" and he know's how to wave his arms to say goodbye, improving child. Sunday, its GOD's day and family day "Kingdom Hall, LCC, home, and market" afterwards, I watch the 59th Collegiate Commencement Exercise at UNC. It was very unfortunate for me, cuz I failed to hear and watched Korina Sanchez speech, our guest speaker. :-(

That's all folks!
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Welcome Back to Blogosphere

  • Okay guys, it has been so long to be blogging again. Let me reminisce some things I've done last week. Monday-preparation of my students for their final exams, Tuesday-one of my class was given an examination and one of my students in that class has done a very disappointing attitude. He took a picture on the test paper of one of my student taking the exam ahead of him. Well, technology really gave us a headache..hightech gadgets to hightech cheating are rampant. Anyway, I should not be affected, I still believe "Kung anu ang tininanum iyo man ang aanihon"-in Bikol or "What you sow is what you will reap".That's why "some" workers or employees now a days are "manhid" or numb of doing what is wrong. Can't be trusted. Anyway, should I be affected...nope..really nope...he can do whatever he want's to do in his life. All I know God has always a place for those wrongdoers.Wednesday, working with my papers for having a passport(chew! so many requirements for clerical error corrections) and now I had it! I can now go anywhere I want to work. Thursday, to Friday, very busy... I was given a privileged to edit the content of my cousins "Thess" website living in Canada. The website is about an immigration services and skilled workers employment agency...wanna see Okay, those who put their trusts on us will be prioritized, of course.
Saturday, Karl Xander starting to speak words I really don't understand...."Tah tah..Mmma..uhh...uhhh" and he know's how to wave his arms to say goodbye, improving child. Sunday, its GOD's day and family day "Kingdom Hall, LCC, home, and market" afterwards, I watch the 59th Collegiate Commencement Exercise at UNC. It was very unfortunate for me, cuz I failed to hear and watched Korina Sanchez speech, our guest speaker. :-(That's all folks!
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An Kagayónan nin Diós

March 28th, 2007 No comments
God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manly Hopkins SJ (1844-89)

An kinâbán napápanô kan kagayónan nin Diós.
Minákurab, síring sa pagsilyáb kan palaráng inuúkag;
Minatípon minadakúla, síring sa búlos kan lánang
Pinugâ. Tâdáw an táo saíya daí na mináhinanyog?
Kadákol nang nag-arági, nag-arági, nag-arági;
An gabós aláng na sa barakálan; láen an pagmáan, sa gíbo naatián;
Gabós dará an atî kan táo, nakíkiheras sa párong kan táo: an dagâ
Daíng anúman, daíng namamatéan an bitís na nagdadalágan.

Alágad sa gabós na iní, daí nauúbos an kapalibútan;
Sa lambáng bágay yáon an hinahánap na kalâbásan;
Asín minsán an húring liwánag mawarâ sa madiklóm na Sulnúpan
Ay, pagkaága, sa kolór-dagáng hanggánan, mináwarak sa Subangán—
Húli ta an Banál na Espíritu sa makasâlán na kinâbán
Minahílig na may maínit na daghán asín ay! pakpák na abáng liwanág!
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March 28th, 2007 No comments

Kaidto na an harigi mi
kawayan pa sana,
pigtatakutan an ambubulato
na garo mga ulaypan,
lalo na kun makalaog ini sa talinga
kakakanon daa kaini an alimantak
sagkod na an biktima matigbak.
Kaya bago magturog,
pigpapagpag muna
an mga tamong asin ulnan
tanganing matunlag
an mga haralabang insekto.

Minsan, nakakua kaming
sampulong ambubulato,
garo ini mga kutong
piggadan ni Nanay,
pigtipon niya an mga ini
asin sabay-sabay na pigrunot
kan saiyang bakya.
Asin duman,
nahiling kong naglaad sinda
kulay berde, maliwanagon!
Sa boot-boot ko,
nagigin palan aninipot
an mga ginagadan na ambubulato.
Abang gayon kan saindang
durungan na kagadanan!


Kinagat kan namok an bua
sa may harani sa saiyang talinga.
Dai na kaini namati an kulog
kan enot na tadok.

Basog-basog na an namok.
Nakakapananok gayod an dugo kan bua.

Kan nakakuang salming an bua,
nahiling niya si namok:
‘Gayon talaga kan sakuyang arong.’

Kan pigkapotan niya ini,
dai na nakalayog si namok.
Napusi ini tulos. Nagdugo.

Sabi kan bua,
‘Ay, punggod palan.’
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Hunger, rice subsidy and a feeding program

THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to push through with its feeding program as a belated response to the hunger issue, widely rebuked by the opposition as a political stunt, clouds its modest beginnings, insofar as Naga and 24 other Philippine cities are concerned.

Our first encounter with providing rice subsidy to school children came through the Street and Urban Working Children Project (SUWCP), an AusAid-funded initiative that the DILG implemented early in the decade. But it needs to be underscored that the incentive is aimed at improving school attendance and minimizing dropout; the hunger part is merely secondary.

When AusAid discontinued funding for the SUWCP after its project life expired, only Naga of the 25 original pilot cities continued with the initiative. Our City Social Welfare and Development Office, under its head Jimmy Reblando, rebranded it as Sanggawadan, a Bikol word which loosely means "helping raise up." Because of its strong educational orientation, the Naga City School Board adopted the program two years ago by providing regular funding support under its annual budget. Even then, addressing hunger is not a stated objective of the program.

Last year, however, we moved beyond Sanggawadan by introducing a focused feeding program called Nutri-Dunong, impelled by results of an Operation Timbang survey which showed that 20% of those enrolled in public schools have "below normal" weight.

Nutri-Dunong tapped the City Nutrition unit headed by Teresita "Baby" del Castillo, who worked with public schools in holding feeding sessions for the affected school children, using a variety of menus it specially developed for the purpose. Similar to Sanggawadan, it was supported by funds allocated by the School Board. Clearly, this initiative have strong anti-hunger dimensions, unlike Sanggawadan.

When we were deliberating on the proposed 2007 School Board budget -- which provided extended funding for Nutri-Dunong -- Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado, who pushed for the feeding program after validating the need for it during our series of school-based consultations last year, reported that improvements were made in around 60% of the beneficiaries during the pilot stage.

Why did I bring this up? For a number of reasons. One, the national government has clearly lifted off its response to the hunger issue from from a successful localization initiative, straight from a local government playbook. While on one hand, it affirms the correctness of what we had been doing all along, it also demonstrates the center's oh-so-slow reactive response to a lingering problem.

Two, rice subsidy must be differentiated from a feeding program. Our experience shows they have related, but clearly different objectives. The latter is a decidedly more congruent response to the hunger problem. In a way, therefore, the senators are correct in specifying milk, coco-pan de sal and vegetable-based noodles, instead of rice, as a response to malnutrition among school children.

Finally, one has to question the timing of all of these. If hunger has been at the 19% record levels since 2004, why did it took the national government three years to put this issue on the table, and only after that damning SWS survey came out?
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How not to implement an IT program

BURIED in the pages of last week's Bicol Mail is a story on how automation can really screw up what used to be acceptable public service. A good teaser that immediately crossed my mind is this entry's title. Feel free to suggest better ones.

The agency involved is the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), a state monopoly whose adventures with the so-called eCard system, and its most recent iteration, the eCard Plus has only made life miserable among its members.

Being a state monopoly, it faces no competition in delivering insurance and allied services to the more than 1 million state workers in the Philippines. And thus it continues to get away with sloppy service that would otherwise be unacceptable elsewhere.

The following account from Sorsogon City is heartbreaking, but I think is typical of what is happening all over the country:
Non-remittance of pensions, unpaid dividends, delayed posting of premium and loan payments, tedious process, lost bank deposits, empty ATM accounts.

These were just some of the complaints from members that were flooding the GSIS office here, and the complainants were growing everyday.

Many of the complaining members were teachers who said that the introduction of the Electronic card just made it harder for them to transact business despite assurances from the GSIS that it would solve their woes.

The teachers, who refused to be identified for fear of being black listed, said that despite the use of the supposedly new technology by the GSIS still their records were not up to date including premium and loan payments.

Some employees of the Philippine Information Agency, who also requested anonimity for the same reason, (said) that before the introduction of the E-card they regularly received dividends through check but it had stopped for the last two years and nothing was credited to their e-cards.

Another teacher also (said) her loan was approved since February and that she was told that it had already been credited to her e-card but in fact none was deposited when she checked it through an ATM this month.

Guardians of old age pensioners were also complaining about the tedious process required again now that the GSIS was renewing the e-card to upgrade its services.
And yet its tagline claims: "Kahit Saan, Kahit Kailan Maaasahan"! What gall!

I hope the 7 fighting for the last 4 Senate slots are listening. Want a killer issue that can vault you safely into the Magic 12? Here's one: Promise the 1.5 million government workers all over the country that you will commit at least half of your time as senator breathing down the GSIS's neck to ensure that its automation program works "kahit saan, kahit kailan."

That's no less than 3 million votes in the bag, Garci or no Garci.
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Ideal Career

March 26th, 2007 No comments
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Diminished leaders, or a pool of inferior choices?

THREE QUICK points in reaction to Manolo's column today, using our experience in Naga as reference. Whether a local experience like ours will hold water at the national level is entirely another matter, so let me proceed with this caveat in mind.

1. Clear mandate, not majority. When Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo won for the first time in 1988, he won by a margin of less than 1,000, over a field at least four candidates. At best, his mandate was by merely plurality. But the results, including that slim winning edge, were accepted by all other parties to the election, particularly then well-known lawyer and current LTO Bicol chief Ramon Roco, younger brother of the late Sen. Raul Roco, who placed second. Further, only three of the elected city councilors came from his ticket; the rest, lionized in local media as the "Magnificent Seven," belonged to Roco's camp.

But that did not prevent him from going against vested interests -- like jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling, lewd show operators, ghost employees and public transport terminal operators -- even to the extent that he had to sever ties with his uncle, then Camarines Sur governor and now 2nd district congressman Luis Villafuerte. Bicol Mail editor Joe Perez's column here has the details on what triggered their split.

2. Inferior choices = diminished leaders. I agree, however, when Manolo said, echoing what GMA declared in her SONA, that our debased and degenerate system has a lot to do with the kind of presidents we have had.

This system is dominated by powerful gatekeepers that frown on well-meaning outsiders and lone rangers -- like Roco and Jovito Salonga -- who are bigger risks to their political and business interests. The media, especially TV, is also a party to it, with its inane programming content biased towards the bottomline instead of the vital public service function they are supposed to perform. So what you get are inferior choices in a pool that gets shallower every time since EDSA '86, and voters who mostly don't know any better.

3. Public participation depends on the space allowed it. If public participation appears to have peaked, it is because our national leaders and their cohorts find it to their advantage to either lay off and do nothing, or worse constrict if not castrate, the democratic space available for its survival and development.

In Naga, for instance, the Sangguniang Panlungsod strictly enforced the Local Government Code provision for NGO accreditation, and went beyond it: they were later federated into what became the Naga City People's Council (NPCP) which selects their own representatives to all local special bodies, up to all standing committees of the sanggunian; and participation by organized groups and individual citizens was welcomed as a strategy to promote inclusivity and sustainability.

In short, the city government realized the value of participation, embraced it and let it flower, in the process sacrificing short-term gains and benefits that can be derived from complete lack of transparency that attends Philippine governance as we know it today. You cannot say the same thing about GMA and her administration.

The more I look at it, the more I am convinced that Urbano's prescriptions on the flawed design of our democracy make sense. If democracy is thriving at some key nondescript communities at the local level, far from the radar of Imperial Manila, the system must explicitly allow them to both flourish at the periphery and inform/reform the center.
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