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Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Question For Our Senators

Have you ever heard of the term "conflict of interest"?

I ask this because I have not heard of anyone bringing this up publicly, in light of what is about to transpire on November 7: alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles is set to appear before the Senate to answer your questions, and the unsaid objective is that you will be able to get to the bottom of this elaborate scheme after subjecting her to your collective scrutiny.

(Courtesy of

No one is mentioning a glaring fact: aren't the legislators supposedly involved in this scam the ones who are truly on trial?

The Commission on Audit report already makes mention of at least three senators and other representatives from the Lower House who have unsettled, questionable or dubious ways of managing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), lovingly called pork barrel by everyone in the country.

Using that frame of reference, we can liken the legislators as the accused in any court case. So I harken back to my first question, in a more detailed manner:

Isn't there a clear conflict of interest, in the matter of senators questioning Napoles?

Would our justice system allow the accused in any other criminal case do the cross examination of a vital witness? In what universe - or at least the universe of democracies with a corresponding justice system - does the one charged with an offense or a crime be the one to test that an eyewitness account can be considered valid/reliable?

When the whistleblowers first appeared in the Senate, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada made a calculated gesture of appearing as well but announcing at the start of the session that he was inhibiting himself, and excusing himself while all cameras were focused there, the only question I had racing in my mind was, shouldn't ALL legislators be inhibiting themselves, given that THEY are the ones we want to be held accountable?

Our money was entrusted to these legislators, and the best responses they can give us are:

- my signature was forged!
- it's not my job to check where I allocate my funds!
- I only allocated so-and-so, why are you all raising hell?

The distrust and anger we collectively feel is heightened by the fact that it is OUR REPRESENTATIVES - supposedly the ones we elected for our interests - involved in this maze of anomalous transactions.

Which part of "it's not your money, it's ours!" is particularly difficult to understand? Is that the reason why these legislators have such a cavalier attitude towards how money that was placed at their disposal be spent?

And when we find senators whose net worth have increased dramatically over the same period, can you stop us from having the gravest of doubts of how that could have occurred?

As a public official once put it (and I'm paraphrasing), no one gets rich by entering public service, and if you do amass wealth while serving, you are doing something wrong.

We haven't even begun the question of impartiality: how can the senators be neutral when they - some of them, anyway - are already crying foul at how the COA report has already painted them as far as public perception goes, even going so far as shedding copious tears on TV? (I guess it's hard to take the acting hat off for some.)

So the question really needs to be asked of our senators:

Why are you - the ones we citizens are demanding an accounting of public funds we entrusted to you - also the ones about to "grill" alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles come November 7?

Wouldn't this be another monumental waste of time, money and effort, in a clear case of conflict of interest?

Or is this just a showcase for some of you with 2016 ambitions?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ready For Retirement?

Say the word "retirement" and what comes to mind?

A person in their 60's - at least - who's had enough wisdom to "save up" for what is also another term associated with the R word, the Golden Years. It connotes an end of a journey, a time when one can be relaxed, and possibly having enough time now to visit other countries.

So it pains me when I see taxi drivers who are in this age range, who can barely hear you and are constantly nodding off, still plying their taxi routes. It has only served to highlight what I have seen over and over again, when I see clients.

Retirement has less to do with chronological age, as it relates more to affordability. More specifically, the question that we all need to answer is, can I afford to retire?

(Courtesy of

This may be a good time to confront the notion that we should have children so that "aalagaan tayo pag tumanda na" (we will be taken care of in our old age), which strikes me as a tad selfish. While it is the parent's duty to provide for a child's needs, it cannot be seen as "automatic" in reverse.

The reason is that the child will grow up to be an adult, and will go on to (hopefully) be a productive citizen, and will maybe find a partner in life and have children, a pressure that is especially marked in this country. How many times have we heard of the wail "kailan mo ba ako bibigyan ng apo?" (When are my grandchildren arriving?)

I've read articles of how unhappy the "sandwich generation" is - the ones who are expected to raise kids and are also pressed to support their parents. Who wouldn't be - between the two sets of mouths to feed (among other needs), when are you supposed to have me-time?

It's time we changed our mindset about this: we should plan for our own retirement. It's good if our kids want to take care of us then/want to do it, but we've all heard the saying "if you want something done, you have to do it yourself." Besides, with our large family size, the more common scene is how siblings pass you around, treating you as a burden that they are obligated to carry.

Wouldn't that be the most painful thing? We all strove to break free from our parents when we considered ourselves "adults" - we craved independence then. It was all about standing on your own feet with the sweat of your own brow - hitting your 60's shouldn't change that, in fact, you're supposed to be "made".

Do you see yourself that way, 40, 30, 20...10 years down the line?

Are you, truthfully, ready for retirement?