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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, December 12, 2014
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OPINIONS

The Fertilizer Scam is alive!

Ninfa Leonardia So it is still alive! The Office of the Ombudsman has not forgotten it, nor have the people in that office suspected of spiriting away records of their benefactors, succeeded in their mission. We are referring to the obnoxious Fertilizer Fund scandal that has been stinking for so many years now, but the stench had seemingly been ignored. Yesterday, a report came out saying that criminal charges were being filed against some officials involved in it.

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Among the first to be charged is the Congressman from Marinduque, Edmundo Reyes, and, would you believe, the amount that reportedly went to him and his people was only P5 million! Isn’t that also the amount for which another congressman we know is being charged? Well, Reyes better have a really smart group of lawyers, because the charge, if proven, could earn him a prison term. His staff and fellow respondents, who only got charged administratively, have already been meted penalties: dismissal from the service, forfeiture of retirement and other benefits, and perpetual disqualification from public office.

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In the meantime, another case to watch is the disqualification case against former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, whose political rival, former Mayor Alfredo Lim, claims to have no right to be a public official because of his having been convicted for plunder. Indeed, many were surprised when Erap stood for election, considering the law against convicts, but somehow, he got through the Commission on Election, and, perhaps, even the courts then. The decision of the Supreme Court on this is due next month.

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I am not surprised that the latest Social Weather Station survey has given President Aquino a better score than the last one. Indeed, the guy is doing his job very well, and, look, he has been in power for almost two-thirds of his term already, but we have not heard of any scandal involving him, or one that has a leg to stand on. Malacañang people are saying this is because of his pro-people programs. But those are also what his opponents, and the enemies of democracy are trying to downgrade. Let’s accept it: He may not be as brilliant as Ferdinand Marcos or Gloria Macapagal, but he has kept us afloat, hasn’t he?

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Can this happen in the Philippines? A Korean Airlines flight had to fly back to the airport to dislodge a member of the cabin crew who had offended a VIP passenger who happened to be the vice president of the company, and the daughter of the president! The veep, identified as Heather Co, was reportedly displeased at the crew member, possibly one we call a stewardess, for serving her macadamia nuts, improperly. The crew member gave her the nuts in a bag, and not on a dish, as it should have been for business class passengers.

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Of course passengers were appalled upon knowing why their flight had to return, and who had caused it. An explanation was that the VIP, was supposed to be in charge of on-flight services, and wanted to stress the failure of the crew member to observe proper etiquette. When the complaints against what happened went viral, the lady VP reportedly apologized, but not personally, a staff member did it for her. All the fuss because of nuts. We don’t even mind if local airlines give us peanuts in tiny foil containers, do we? By the way, PAL does not even give peanuts anymore, unless you are in business class and can stay in their lounge, where you can have all the peanuts you want.

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Another low pressure area monitored? Reports say one more is nearing the Philippine Area of Responsibility, or PAR. Why whose weathermen would call it a “responsibility”, is beyond me. We have nothing to do with the movements of those LPAs, have we? But, since we cannot do anything about their comings and goings, let us just pray that they all come in now, but spare the days when the Holy Father is expected to visit. Please don’t spoil the days that our people have been looking forward to with so much enthusiasm.

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Meanwhile, I would like to repeat what has been sounded in this column so many times already, and that is for those who send us “Letters to the Editor” to identify themselves properly, for our record purposes. We can withhold their names, if merited, and requested, but we can’t publish those supposedly coming from US President Obama, UK Prime Minister Cameron or New Zealand Prime Minister Key, as they haven’t informed us that they read the DAILY STAR regularly.*

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