Monkey in the driver’s seat

THE December 16 Metro Manila bus disaster in which 22 people lost their lives and 20 more were injured was far from unique. On the same day, in Badian, Cebu, a drunken bus driver lost control of his vehicle while negotiating a curve and killed several people, including his own wife and daughter. Barely two months ago, on October 9, a bus collided with a truck in Atimonan, Quezon, and smashed into two other buses, two cargo trucks, a trailer truck and a van that were going in the other direction. Twenty people were killed and 54 others were injured.

In 2010, a bus crash in Balamban, Cebu, killed 21 people and injured 26 others. A journalist and member of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication Journalism Faculty, Chit Estella, was killed by a speeding bus along Quezon City’s Commonwealth Avenue in 2011 that rammed the taxicab she was in. Although Estella was the only casualty in that crash, her death cost the country one of its leading journalists.

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What’s in a name?

AS SOME congressmen have argued, not necessarily because they themselves benefit from it, pork barrel funds have been known to help far-flung communities, even if it’s only in the form of a basketball court, a bridge, a road, or a barangay hall.

Some pork barrel-built roads do lead to nowhere, and pork barrel-built barangay halls have been known to leak like sieves when it rains. But that isn’t always the case. The chances are one can find, somewhere in the length and breadth of this archipelago, roads that do start and end somewhere, and barangay halls that have been known to adequately shelter community residents when it doesn’t only rain, but pours.

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Conduct unbecoming

THE LAST time US forces occupied several military bases all over the Philippines, among them Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, it took a decades-long campaign against their presence, a volcanic eruption, and over 40 years to get them out.

Anticipating the need to get and keep them out, the 1987 Constitution barred foreign troops and military bases without a treaty ratified by the Senate, which, despite then President Corazon Aquino’s advocacy, refused to renew the US lease in September1991. Not that the US was at the time still seriously interested in keeping the latter, the global projection of US power through its nuclear submarine complex and aircraft carrier tax forces being then seen to be less costly and more effective. The cleanup at Clark because of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in June 1991 would not have been worth the expense and effort anyway. The Senate action wasn’t as disastrous to US strategy as some thought at the time. But it did end a long period of occupation by foreign troops in places where they were the undisputed, non-accountable sovereigns.

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THE Aquino administration has declared as non-negotiable the relocation of some 20,000 non-formal settler families living along metro Manila’s waterways by the end of this year, and of 100,000 others by the end of Mr. Aquino’s term in 2016.

The decision comes in the aftermath of the floods in metro Manila last week which caused schools and offices to shut down in some areas, and caused horrendous traffic jams, for the severity of which the informal settler families living along metro Manila waterways have been blamed. Blaming the families for the severity of the floods, they being the alleged source of the garbage that chokes esteros and river systems, was the Metro Manila Development Authority’s and Department of Public Works’ mantra last week. But that has since become less of an official reason for the planned and ongoing relocations than the claim that it’s for the families’ own safety and welfare.

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Disaster Philippines

NEARLY 2,500 people — 2,360 to be exact — died in 2012 in natural disasters in the Philippines, says the non-governmental Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC), putting it ahead of all other countries in the world including China, which was second with 771 deaths.

But because “only” 12 million Filipinos were affected last year by typhoons, landslides, flooding and those other rainy-season disasters Filipino flesh is heir to, while some 43 million were affected in China, the Philippines was only second to that country as far as how many people were displaced, lost their belongings, had their homes damaged, and/or suffered various economic losses because of crops destroyed or jobs lost, among others.

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