31 August 2006

Guarded optimism after the ISA event

FRANK Mendoza, Dave Bercasio and I did a post-event assessment after yesterday's formal launch of the "Mahal Ko ang Pilipinas" (MKAP) movement at the Philippine Plaza Hotel, where more aspiring "Dream Cities" were initiated and eight, including Naga, were declared Public Governance System (PGS)-compliant. Their inputs helped me crystallize some key thoughts after reflecting throughout another bone-jarring roadtrip back home.

Dr. Jesus Estanislao, chair of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) which is the prime mover behind the PGS, touched a sympathetic chord in me who has practically given up on the national government. His quietly moving keynote cogently articulated the plaintive cry of a motherland who feels abandoned by her children, thousands of whom are voting with their feet with every passing day. The choice of Gat Andres Bonifacio as a historical inspiration for the movement is therefore most fitting, as his paean to love of country remains very timely and relevant.

In a way, I think the MKAP is an indictment of the Arroyo regime's failure in nation-building. The Philippines 2030 roadmap highlighted in the conference (left), which seeks to accelerate the process within a generation, should ideally parallel the journey being taken by the "Dream Cities". Which, among others, requires the chief executive to play a critical leadership role, and in the process own the national scorecard. That the movement decided to work instead with key sectors of Philippine society in coming up with an alternative roadmap indeed speaks volumes.

That the Philippine Marines,
among the operating units of the military, came forward to draw its own roadmap using the PGS framework is another item that speaks volumes. I am with Gerry Ravalo and the people who attended the session with the Marines when he pointed out that we haven't thanked them enough in securing our country. But I think I will be remiss in my duty as a citizen if I did not bring up the continuing politicization of the military, and the role some of its leaders today have played in the political crisis that continues to hound us.

That was the whole point of my question yesterday; I think I was still too polite to only imply what is common knowledge among the audience, and I think most everyone got the drift. (Too much politeness in fact prevents our society from really discussing and addressing the gut issues bedeviling us head on.) But the mere fact that the Marines went through the PGS process is a testament to their resolve to right the wrongs, and hopefully it includes reclaiming and living up to its core ideals—"Karangalan, Katungkulan, Kabayanihan"—as an institution.


On the whole, I went back to Naga with a guarded optimism that we will still be able to climb out of the rut. I sincerely hope the MKAP movement succeeds. Naga's best contribution to the effort would be to play its part in building up the capital of hope in our own corner of the archipelago, and inspiring others to do the same.

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29 August 2006

TRO is served!

DARN, I can't access a scanner here at SEAMEO-INNOTECH so I can't upload a scanned copy of the Supreme Court Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued yesterday by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. This leaves me with no choice but to reproduce the essence of his order, which is as follows [with my notes in brackets]:

TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

TO: Hon. Felimon Montenegro, Presiding Judge; Atty. Jesus Mampo, Clerk of Court; Sheriff Jorge B. Lopez, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Naga City

GREETINGS:

WHEREAS, a petition for certiorari and prohibition with very urgent motion/application for temporary restraining order was filed by counsels for petitioner [CITY OF NAGA, as represented by Mayor Jesse M. Robredo];

WHEREAS, considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the petition, it is necessary and proper to ISSUE the TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER prayed for and require the respondents to COMMENT on the petition within a NON-EXTENDIBLE period of ten (10) days from notice hereof;

NOW, THEREFORE, You, respondents, are hereby required to COMMENT on the petition within a NON-EXTENDIBLE period of ten (10) days from notice hereof. Meanwhile, a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER is hereby ISSUED, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, restraining You, Judge Felimon Montenegro, Clerk of Court Jesus Mampo and Sheriff Jorge B. Lopez, your agents, representatives, or persons acting in your place or stead, from enforcing the

(i) Decision dated June 20, 2005;
(ii) Order dated August 17, 2006;
(iii) Writ of Execution Pending Appeal dated August 22, 2006;
(iv) Notice to Vacate dated August 23, 2006; and
(v) Notice of Garnishment dated August 23, 2006.

No bond need be filed as the petititioner is a government agency.

GIVEN this 28th day of August 2006, in Manila, Philippines.

(Sgd.) ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN, Chief Justice

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City Hall gets a reprieve

EARLY THIS morning, Mayor Jesse Robredo texted me that he has "secured a TRO" and will push through with his speaking engagement in Quezon City today.

When I reported at the office at 6:40 am, Sandy Zantua of Metro PESO confirmed the news: at around 11 pm last night, City Legal Officer Nelson Legacion read the text of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that effectively maintained status quo, to the delight of the crowd that massed at City Hall last night. I am not sure if it came from the Supreme Court, but most probably it did; I will post a copy later.

This should calm things down a little bit over the next few weeks. On the positive side, it means we will be able to complete the remaining five or so sectoral planning events without a hitch. And we will be able to focus on the "Dream Cities" event arranged by the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA) tomorrow with minimum distraction. But the storm is still there lurking, and these interesting times are far from over.

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28 August 2006

Situation tightens, but business as usual

TODAY, the Naga City Government, as any self-respecting local authority should, took the necessary steps to defend itself in anticipation of the expiration tomorrow of the five-day notice to vacate issued by Jorge Lopez, sheriff of the Regional Trial Court. All entries into the main compound were barricaded, except for the main road beside the Raul Roco Library. Public Safety Office (PSO) personnel were assigned to guard all offices cited in the eviction notice, including the Youth Center and the City Engineer's Office at the Civic Center three blocks away. A night-long vigil is well underway.

It was business as usual at City Hall, the tightening situation notwithstanding. Our planning workshop this afternoon with the Infrastructure and Utilities group was well attended, and the rest will proceed as scheduled later this week. It generated quality inputs from professional organizations like the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and the United Architects of the Philippines, private developers like the Almeda Group, Avida Communities and Enjoy Realty (the latter represented by its big boss and Metro Naga Chamber president Emiterio Aman himself), and the district and regional offices of the DPWH. Towards the end, the lady architect of the Almeda Group told me she is impressed with how we structured and managed the entire proceedings (ahem!), and looked forward to attending similar events.

But some services did suffer. Early in the morning, DWNX-FM reported traffic woes at the Penafrancia-Colgante area owing to the absence of PSO traffic enforcers.

In the flag rites, Mayor Jesse Robredo explained the situation to city hall employees, assured them that steps are being taken to protect the city government and the public's interest, and emphasized that the Court of Appeals decision, although not favorable, precisely seeks to prevent the disruption of local government services. Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado quoted Edmund Burke: "For evil to triumph, it is enough for good men to do nothing." Earlier, former Naga city mayors Ramon Felipe, Jr., Carlos del Castillo and Sulpicio Roco, Jr. spoke in support of the admininistration's stand on the matter in separate radio interviews.

But I think the reported degradation in traffic enforcement this morning is more indicative of the shape of things to come. The Court of Appeals is gravely mistaken when it thought government services will not be affected by exempting City Hall, NBI and the Hall of Justice, which the Mariano heirs promised as plaintiffs. (By the way, the RTC issuances, including Judge Felimon Montenegro's order, took note of these exceptions, contrary to what I posted earlier. But the "big picture" issue remains.)

The updated map of the City Government Center shows the extent of local offices and national agencies that will be affected. The City Health Office, for instance, is now homed at the ground floor of the City Hall Annex, which it shares with the General Services Office (in charge of streetlights and procurement) and Lingkod Barangay (in charge of basic barangay services). Both CHO and Lingkod Barangay were specifically cited in the eviction notice. The same goes for the Bicol Science and Technology Centrum, the Roco library and Metro PESO (at the DOLE building, where my School Board project also holds fort, together with the Naga City Visitors Center). Ditto with LTO, the Post Office, Radyo ng Bayan and TESDA, DOLE and NLRC, which are neighbors at the DOLE building.

What fate then awaits the government of my fair city? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata!

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26 August 2006

Dark clouds over City Hall

"INTERESTING TIMES" have visited the Naga city government as the Regional Trial Court orders City Hall and all other offices, mostly government, to be vacated over the next five days. Bicol Mail's lead story captures the prevailing mood: dark clouds hang over the horizon.

This issue is linked to the imprisonment last year of my colleague, Joe Perez, the Bicol Mail editor who alleged that money changed hands over the ejectment case between the city government on the one hand, and the heirs of the Mariano family on the other. Details of Joe's travails can be found here and here.

A map of the City Hall complex shows the agencies affected by the decision. Professional organizations which built and maintain their own buildings within the complex include the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Camarines Sur Medical Society, the Philippine Nurses Association and PICPA, the national accountants association. Not in the map is the Civic Center which houses the City Engineers and Building offices, the Radyo ng Bayan and Kabalikat, the Youth Center and Hostel, and public sports facilities.

A key sub-plot: is there bad faith in the
writ of execution pending appeal issued by the sala of RTC Judge Felimon Montenegro when the very same Court of Appeals decision it used as basis for said decision exempted the buildings and lots occupied by City Hall, the Hall of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation pending appeal?

The bigger picture framing the issue: will legal gobbledegook again trump plain common sense, as it is public knowledge that the properties under question were donated by the Mariano forebears?

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25 August 2006

We thought we knew better...

A LITTLE discussion arose during this afternoon's just concluded session with the 3rd cluster of barangays, most of which are located in the upland areas of Naga City.

A representative of the barangay people's council from San Felipe took issue with the first two of the city's three performance measures in regard to poverty reduction:(1) proportion of urban poor households with at least one member employed and earning the minimum wage; (2) proportion of urban poor households residing in the city for at least 3 years enjoying security of tenure; and (3) proportion of city households whose income is above the poverty threshold.

How about the upland barangays with no urban poor communities, yet rural poverty is more pronounced? Does it mean they are not part of or priority areas in the city's anti-poverty agenda?

He had a very good point, and our only response was to refer him to the blank space in our template where participants are encouraged to place their own performance measures not captured by those specified at the city level.

Which illustrates two key lessons: One, there is a tendency in the cities to automatically equate poverty with its more prevalent urban form, at the expense of rural poverty which is a reality in their predominantly agricultural villages. In designing the city level performance measures, we indeed thought we knew better.

Two, and this reaffirms the point made in the previous post, yet another value-added of barangay planning is precisely the flexibility to correct mistakes, in the process yielding a better set of performance measures, a better tool that more accurately captures realities on the ground, and a better understanding of development challenges in the locality. And of course profit from invaluable learning that goes with it.

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Value-added from barangay planning

WE STILL have the last cluster (the upland barangays of the city) to handle this afternoon but the past two sessions with 19 barangays over the last two days underscored the great value of conversing with community leaders.

Dave Bercasio, executive director of the Naga City People's Council (the federation of local NGOs and POs), made a very important point: all 150,000 or so residents who call themselves Nagueños, who belong to the sectors we are consulting, are also residents of any one of the 27 barangays of Naga. This establishes the logic of aligning the vision, initiatives and resources of the city government and its component barangays, to my mind the one of two basic strengths of the PGS approach (the other being the convergence of Naga's best practices across the board; but more on this later). And to think we excluded this key sector in our original workplan!

Our two sessions brought to the fore certain priority areas that the local society, led by the city government, must address over the next decade. That barangay leaders pointed to these recurring themes that came out in the
eight previous sectoral planning events reaffirms their importance: revitalizing the Naga River, fixing traffic at the city center and attitudes of tricycle drivers, and improving garbage collection starting at the household level. By taking the so-called "service temperature" prevailing in each sector, we are able to surface these common concerns across the board without going through the usual, too-technoratic SWOT analysis. (Conceptually, they are the same banana.)

The other value-added lies in the impromptu sharing of solutions that barangay folks have implemented themselves in response to these problems. Concepcion Grande, led by B/Capt. Fred Morano himself, Bagumbayan Sur and the Peñafrancia kagawads were particularly engaging and generous with their workable workarounds.

A limitation to the conversations we have started thus far lies in the short time horizon that has framed our discussions. In the overview, we have always mightily emphasized the challenge to look far beyond the three-year terms of elected officials, at least by gazing at what Naga should be 10 years from now. But to no avail.

This perhaps call for an additional, separate session with "forward-thinking" individuals from among the sectors: those gifted with a sense, and audacity, to look beyond what ordinary folks do not usually see.

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22 August 2006

"Dream cities" and the currency of hope

IN THE "Good News" section of the Inquirer's online version is a story about the "Dream Cities" initiative of the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA), which to date has covered 15 of the 114 cities in the country. Naga of course is one of them, together with Calbayog, Cebu, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Marikina, Samal, San Fernando in La Union, San Fernando in Pampanga, Sorsogon, Tacurong, Tagaytay, Tagbilaran, Tangub and Toledo.

What binds these cities together is ISA's public governance system (PGS), which is drawn from the Balanced Scorecard approach developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton at the Harvard School of Business. On August 30, in a national conference at the Philippine Plaza Hotel, they will have an opportunity to unveil the initiatives they have drawn up towards attaining their respective visions by 2015 or thereabouts.

Naga's vision, as can be seen from this roadmap, is to become a model city for participatory governance in Southeast Asia by the time the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are supposed to have been attained by member-states of the UN. It is our "big hairy audacious goal" or BHAG in Collinspeak (after Jim Collins who wrote the bestselling Built to Last and Good to Great.)

Compare the bullishness and the gung-ho of these "dream cities" with the hopelessness pervading Imperial Manila and its wrecked superstructures and you will see two Philippines: one buoyed up by a strong currency of hope, mostly in the countrysides, and another plagued by the steady erosion of that precious capital.

I too was moved when Epoyz wrote that 23 years after Ninoy Aquino lost his life, he finally wept over a nation unworthy of that supreme sacrifice. But no, I am not throwing the towel just yet. As Teddyboy Locsin told the Ateneo de Manila graduates early this month:

The challenge is for all of us to keep believing, as though by a lifelong compact, that thinking straight and doing right, feeling compassion and doing charity, and seeing that justice is done in any case, require no conditions and admit of no compromise. Only so can we replenish the rapidly declining capital of hope, which is the real key to the wealth of nations.

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21 August 2006

Beta-testing the new Blogger beta

LAST NIGHT, I spent close to 3 of the 12-hour credit that came with the discounted Blast card that my wife secured through her niece's internet cafe in Pili, which is my hometown.

Ordinarily, I would scrimp on it to prolong its life, opting instead to wake up early just before cooking my son's breakfast (as he needs to be at Cam High before 6 am) so I can avail of Blast's free internet from 12 midnight to 8 am. Or I would postpone tasks requiring bigger bandwidth so I can use the broadband service at City Hall when I report for work.

But last night was a special night, as I was hooked by Blogger's ongoing beta-testing of its new version that provides new functionalities, including that one I most desire: the ability to categorize posts, which initially drew me to Wordpress (see this), and in the process of finding workarounds in the old Blogger version, made me register with Del.icio.us (whose tags you will see in my sidebar).

But it seems I will have to stick with Blogger for the time being. The new Archives functionality is quite nifty (but it should come with the ability to right-justify entries), as is the Labels tool, which is Blogger's answer to Wordpress' Category and Del.icio.us' Tags. Also, it still lacks the HTML editing option, although Blogger promises to incorporate it in
"days not weeks" timeframe.

Migrating to and from the new Blogger format is quite easy, but I intend to do so only when the new version is fully ready, when I have streamlined my own categories (I had more than 15 when I tried it), and when I already have greater control over the template through HTML editing.

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20 August 2006

Decentralization and the atomization of the Filipino nation

IT WAS a punishing week facilitating three sectoral planning workshops (four, if not for the postponement of this afternoon's session with the Youth sector for tomorrow morning) between a long scheduled check-up of a daughter at the National Children Hospital in Quezon City. Thus far, we have already covered eight, the most recent with the Senior Citizens last Friday. But work has not been toxic; it was fascinating to start a conversation with people who care deeply for their city, and the sector they represent.

So let me start this week with my take on the recent failed impeachment bid, albeit a largely expected one, with two dishonorable Bikolano representatives, Luis Villafuerte and Edcel Lagman, outdoing each other as hitmen of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. How come the Filipino people are again sitting through this bloody murder idly by?

I think it has to do more with the ever growing distance between Imperial Manila and the goings on in the corridors of power of the central government on the one hand, and the individual citizen on the other. There is just no connection anymore, so why care? The great difficulties notwithstanding, the poor are mostly able to scrape it whether a pretender is in Malacañang or not.

Atomization, I believe, is how experts call it. And what is ironic about it is that decentralization seems to have accelerated it. Nowadays, citizens deal with their barangay captain, either the municipio or city hall, and then the capitolio or the office of the congressman, in that sequence, when they need to get things done for them or on behalf of their community. That is the automatic reaction; nowhere does Malacañang come into the picture, notwithstanding the Philhealth cards, the land title distribution and all other gimmicks being cooked up by Mike Defensor, Toting Bunye and the other palace lackeys.

Malacañang is the magic word—but only for the congressman, the loyal governors and mayors and their coterie of contractors, the generals and their hangers on, and the businessmen who wants the inside track in some sleazy deals being cooked up. But never for the ordinary citizen.

I think it will only begin to matter again if we get to have a president that is able to inspire, able to bridge our social divides, and able to make the lowly Filipino feel important again and hopeful of the future beyond his daily survival needs.

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13 August 2006

If GMA were really sincere about dismantling "Imperial Manila"...

THIS POST was prompted by a comment I made in Manolo Quezon's blog, which essentially calls for a better alternative to what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled in her recent SONA.

One way to go, without the need for a divisive charter change, is to put money where the government's mouth is: through a meaningful regional block allocation system embedded in the annual national budget.

I first encountered the concept a decade back when I was spending part of my time with the Regional Development Council in Legazpi City. The scheme calls for the RDC to apportion a uniform amount among regions (it was P100 million at the time, if I recall it right) to fund priority development projects. Unfortunately, Congress eventually killed it at the bicam (which only goes to show the institutional resistance by Manila-based gatekeepers against any effort for regional self-determination).

Actually, the RDCs are the nearest thing we have today to a regional entity under a federal form of government. It consists of the provincial governors, city and capital town mayors, congressmen, directors of regional line agencies and private sector representatives elected by province. Its operation is backstopped up by regional offices of the NEDA, which provide the essential regional perspective lacking at the local (i.e. town, city, provincial) level. But it is being taken lightly by locals and has remained mostly a toothless paper tiger because its decisions need to be vetted by central authorities.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. has placed the final price tag of GMA's SONA at P372 billion, around P187 of which will be funded through the annual budget of the national government. The latter translates to roughly P11 billion for each of the country's 17 administrative regions, which is certainly more equitable than the five "super regions" she has conjured. If she (and any other president for that matter) were really sincere about dismantling "Imperial Manila," a regional block allocation system should be the non-negotiable centerpiece of the annual budget. Placed at the RDCs' disposal, it is more than enough reasons for LGUs to take the councils more seriously, and in the process lay down the foundation for the development of regional states.

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10 August 2006

A Year Without Raul

NOTE: Today I yield to kimosabe27's remembrance a year after Raul S. Roco passed away, a fitting followup to his requiem to the fallen Bikolano icon.

Perhaps it was a god’s way of mourning, Raul
That a year after you departed,
Magayon,
In all her gracefulness and majesty
Wept

As we gazed from her perfect face
Red ruby tears cascading

As we listened from her bosom
Sobs of pealing thunder

As we felt from our feet
Waves of her trembling sadness

We were moved by the divine melancholy
And awed by the mystic perfection

In our heart of hearts
We solemnly pray
A mist of blessedness
Be gracefully bestowed on us
We who wretchedly walk
This parched earth

For a year without you Raul
Evil remained triumphant

We still seethe
In remembering sacred oaths
Pledged on hallowed ground
Easily being disowned, discarded

We still lament
That usurpers remain in power
Engorging themselves with fat of the land
While people die of hunger and neglect

We still grieve
The brave souls who stood up
For truth and justice
Only to be felled
By blood-hungry assassins

We still condemn
The Guardians of the Faith
Who waylaid the flock
When seduced by opulent temple offerings

We rage on

One year without you Raul
We were still bewildered
By that ancient riddle
Which haunted men
Who gazed the heights of heavens
And plunged the depths of their soul
Who traversed unfamiliar landscapes
And waded through ancient papyri

Asking:

Why do good men die
And evil men triumph?

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08 August 2006

Impediments to town and gown partnerships

AN INTERESTING event took place yesterday as our group met a UNDP Bangkok-based researcher who is in Manila to look at the capability building efforts behind best practices of Philippine local government units (LGUs). In that meeting, Prof. Derly Fernandez of the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) in Zamboanga wondered why LGUs (the "towns") opt to send their staff elsewhere for training, when local academic institutions (the "gowns") can very well deliver the same.

Several key points emerged in the discussion that involved academics and the LGUs (Naga, Pasay City; Maitum, Sarangani; and Zamboanga City) represented:

1. Training activities for LGUs are largely donor-driven, and hence are subject to decisions made by gatekeepers at the national capital—another dimension of the "Imperial Manila" syndrome at play.

2. While capability building activities are usually lowest in the totem pole of LGU priorities funded through annual budgets, their most popular activity along this line—the "Lakbay Aral" study tours—usually end up in Baguio, Subic and Pasay City (usually the last stop, where homebound participants would exit Manila through its airport) as greater emphasis is placed on the tour and not the study part.

3. On the part of LGUs, the hesitation to engage locals can also be grounded on their perception, rightly or wrongly, that they are more competent on the subject than local academics can ever be. This persistent tension between theoreticians and practitioners is really one huge gulf that separates the town from the gown.

4. The other gap behind the trepidation among LGUs to engage local academics lies in their negative attitude towards "bad news" when the latter speak truth to power. A case in point would be Zamboanga City's rejection of the poverty mapping outputs of WMSU's Institute of Development Studies and Administration under Dr. Fernandez, which local politicians perceive to put them in a bad light.

The reason why I was here is to represent Naga's School Board project in the UNDP-funded Fostering Democratic Governance (FDG) initiative of the Galing Pook Foundation and its LGU best practices and the Association of Schools of Public Administration in the Philippines, Inc. (ASPAP). By tapping local schools belonging to the ASPAP network to write case studies on local best practices, the project is a concrete step towards bringing local towns and gowns together.

But bringing this forward meaningfully requires more than relying on an externally funded initiative like the FDG; it should eventually be matched by the allocation of local resources for capability building. In doing so, the points outlined above need to be consciously addressed.

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06 August 2006

Google Earthing a better route for the Naga marathon

I WAS standing near the Universidad de Sta. Isabel gate nearest to the Metropolitan Cathedral when the three waves of participants in the Naga qualifier for the 30th Milo Marathon passed by. Blessed by a delightful morning, the organizers have every reason to be happy for the huge turnout, except for the many motorists, jeepney and tricycle drivers as well as their passengers who were terribly inconvenienced by the event. Not to mention the churchgoers who chose to be at the Cathedral that morning.

I summoned Google Earth the moment we came back home from our own Sunday church meeting and fortunately enough, it worked notwithstanding my dialup connection. (All along, I thought it only works with DSL.)

Plotting the route my son took for their 5K run (see top map), I readily understood why: the route went through three main traffic generators — the plaza, the cathedral itself and the Bagumbayan-Liboton intersection (airbrushed in blue, courtesy of Microsoft Paint). Add to it the fact that it is a major thoroughfare connecting Naga to the Tinambac-Calabanga-Bombon-Magarao area, there was simply so much the Naga police and Lito del Rosario's Public Safety Office people were up against. It was a situation ripe for an accident. And Tox Ballaran, whom I chanced upon this morning, told me an accident indeed occurred last year.

So why not come up with a better route that skirts traffic generators, thereby minimizing potential bottlenecks and the possibility of accidents? Initially, I thought having it begin and end at the City Hall complex might be a good idea. The entire stretch of Juan Miranda Avenue all the way to the Bicol Medical Center can accommodate even twice the number of people who showed up this morning. The downside however lies in its distance from the city center, and the probable sparse crowd that Nestle will not want for that event. Even then, it is still a better option, safetywise.
The bottom map is another alternative. It starts and ends from the Plaza but passes through Blumentritt all the way to Balatas, then turns left to San Felipe (via Almeda Road, not the Highway) at the Gualandi Center, all the way to Pacol, then towards Ateneo de Naga High School where 21K marathoners would turn back at the Avida rotunda. Each way, this route would be roughly 10 kilometers.

It is better because (1) traffic on the Naga-Carolina route is thinner than that of Naga-Calabanga; (2) closing off the entire Blumentritt Street is possible as Dayangdang-bound vehicles can be rerouted elsewhere; (3) Carolina and Pacol-bound PUJs can be rerouted through Cararayan via sitio Salonguigui; and (4) the event will continue to start and finish at Plaza Quezon, thereby maintaining maximum media value.

And the safety of the both the serious and occasional Milo marathoners, which should always be paramount, will be better assured.

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The 30th Milo Marathon in Naga

AT AROUND 4 am, I was already wide awake, mainly in preparation for my eldest's first Milo Marathon, whose Naga qualifier took place this morning. By around 5, we were already munching through the yummy pandesals at Atlantic, with some helpings of black coffee and a bowl of arroz caldo.

By around 5:50 off went the throng of marathoners of practically all ages, turning Elias Angeles Street all the way to Bagumbayan Norte and Canaman into a sea of green. Variously, I saw a mother and her 5-year old daughter; a 70ish groovily attired granddaddy whose eyes I couldn't see, shielded by a pair of black shades; a corps of nattily dressed cadet and cadette officers from the Universidad de Sta. Isabel (where I parked my bike); and mostly teenagers already walking! gasping for breath just 250 meters from the starting line, obviously there only because their PE teachers required them to.

It was clearly another of those one-day wonders, leaving me seriously wondering if the event now in its 30th edition is really making a dent in promoting a healthy lifestyle among the populace.

Half an hour later, my son Ezekiel ran past by, panting but obviously happy. He flashed the V-sign when he saw me. When I finally tracked him down at Plaza Quezon, he has already downed the cupful of Milo beverage each finisher is entitled to, and handed me a rolled certificate as 5K marathoner. He completed the race at 38:01, surpassing the expectation of somebody who has never ever joined one in his entire life.

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03 August 2006

What if Roco were our president?

OF COURSE this is all water under the bridge now, with Raul S. Roco almost a year into the Great Beyond. But let me engage in a little scenario-building exercise, prompted by the "secret" closed-door-but-not-so-secret-anymore dialogue organized by Malacañang.

If Roco were our president,

  • that dialogue will, in the first place, not be secret because there's no need for it to be so. Of course, the opposition will be just as rowdy, but there won't be a "Hello Garci" that will underpin all efforts to impeach him;
  • there will only be four, not five, "most serious" problems that will be discussed since legitimacy of his administration will not be one of these;
  • providing decent livelihood to the increasing number of Filipinos will remain a formidable problem, as it is now, made worse by the raging conflict in Lebanon. But a more coherent population management program will be in place. Angelo de la Cruz will be hostaged by Iraqi militants, but will promptly be released as the Philippines did not join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing." Lara Precious Quigaman, the Oracion-Emata-Garduce conquest of Everest, the SEA games spectacle, and Manny Pacquiao's string of victories will all happen, as they did, but they will not be called upon to lend their sheen on a president's SONA (or SANA, as Lito Banayo appropriately called it) because Roco will have no need for borrowed glory;
  • fund mobilization will have been easier. As a legitimate president, there will be no need to buy voracious representa-thieves to survive impeachment, thereby freeing these funds for more beneficial use. The 12% VAT will be strongly resisted, but a more transparent accounting of its proceeds would eventually mute opposition. A less corrupt administration will have an easier time securing multilateral financing for key initiatives of the government;
  • peace and order wil not be as problematic as it is today. There will be no military clique lording it over a duly elected civilian authority. The Legal Left will not be persecuted: as such the Batasan 5 will not have come into being and the senseless killing of militants minimized as purely local incidents. There will be no need for CPR, PP 1017 and EO 464. But Mindanao will continue to remain a problem, especially as the threat from Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups will not be addressed as effectively, with the Bush administration angered and affronted by RP's refusal to join the Anglo-American coalition against Iraq; and
  • education will be the top national government priority in terms of funding allocation, but there will be much less chance for it to be decentralized, unlike the initial efforts began during the incumbency of Edilberto de Jesus and Butch Abad.
And that last item will be a huge source of my frustration, being the local autonomist that I am. Roco, after all, consigned an ADB-funded study on a decentralized DepEd to the department library when he was secretary, less that 15 minutes into a formal presentation. Serendipitously, I found out that over the last four years, his beloved Naga had been actualizing what that study envisioned without us ever knowing about it. Until last June 30 when Nap Imperial of NEDA graciously gave me a xerox copy.:)

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02 August 2006

Naga observes Raul Roco's 1st death anniversary

THE NAGA City Government, through the Raul S. Roco Library, has arranged a program of activities this Friday (August 4) meant to commemorate the first death anniversary of the late Sen. Raul S. Roco.

The pride of Naga City, Roco succumbed to cancer on August 5, 2005 at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City. According to Federico Vinluan, acting city librarian, a series of activities will be held on Saturday in Metro Manila, where the former senator and education secretary made his mark in the national consciousness.

The activities here include:

  • A memorial mass at the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Basilica Minore from 8:30 am
  • Wreath laying at Roco's grave at the Sto. Nino Memorial Park from 9:40-10 am, and
  • A tribute entitled "Embraced by God" at the Plaza Quezon from 7-8 pm (or alternatively, at the Arrupe Hall at the Ateneo de Naga University if the weather will not cooperate).
Presentations recalling Raul's life will highlight the tribute, to be given by the Naga Parochial School, the Ateneo de Naga University, Universidad de Sta. Isabel, the Naga Central School I Rondalla and The Caceres Chorals. Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado will give a welcome remarks, and Mayor Jesse Robredo a message on behalf of the city government. After the presentations, Mrs. Sonia Malasarte-Roco will give a message on behalf of the family. Former 2nd district congressman Cho Roco, Raul's younger brother, will give the closing remarks.

Photo nicked from the article
"Nearly everybody loves Raul Roco."

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