“2020 wish list: Cheaper food, better health care, less traffic” – SHARP EDGES by JAKE MADERAZO
This New Year, the national and local overnments gshould work together and focus on lowering food prices in public markets, providing universal health care for all Filipinos and easing vehicular traffic on Edsa and C5.
This is not wishful thinking but actually doable, if all public officials get their act together.
For instance, food prices in city markets should be guarded by mayors, through their market administrators, against “middlemen-viajeros” who manipulate supply and prices of rice, chicken, pork, beef and vegetables.
For a single violation, cancel their permits as retailers or wholesalers, then file cases and imprison violators of the Price Act (Republic Act No. 7581).
Meanwhile, the Universal Health Care Act (RA 11223) sets a P257-billion funding for the first year of its implementation but only P160.1 billion has been allotted for this purpose in the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget.
This is short of P96.9 billion, and certainly, this would rile President Duterte.
Since signing the law in February, he has harnessed sin taxes, charity funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and other sources to fund universal health care. In 2019, Mr. Duterte vetoed P97 billion worth of appropriations.
I will not be surprised if he realigns billions of pesos of “pork barrel funds” or “parked lump sums” and give these to universal health care for 2020.
So, let’s keep our fingers crossed. Third, I hope Skyway (Stage 3) from Balintawak to Buendia via Araneta Avenue and the new Sta. Monica-Lawton bridge (Ortigas to Bonifacio Global City) becomes operational next year to ease Edsa and C5 traffic.
Skyway 3 (along Araneta Avenue) opens in April and will significantly reduce the 380,000 vehicles using Edsa daily.
Travel on the new tollway from Balintawak to Buendia and vice versa is expected to take only 15 minutes.
In March, the Sta. Monica-Lawton bridge linking Ortigas and BGC will be operational, reducing 25,000 vehicles along Edsa Guadalupe and C5-Bagong Ilog.
Going back to the Ampatuan conviction. Let’s not forget the dozens of Department of Justice (DOJ) employees, led by then Chief State Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, who walked out in April 2010.
This was in protest of the move by their boss, then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, to drop the murder charges against then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano Mayor Akmad Ampatuan in the Maguindanao massacre.
Earlier, Arellano and a panel of public prosecutors found probable cause to file a case against the two Ampatuans, which was approved by then Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.
Agra, who succeeded Devanadera, dismissed their finding based on the suspects’ alibis. But due to public indignation, Agra reversed himself and found probable cause against Zaldy and Akmad, citing testimonies from “new witnesses.”
Were it not for the unwavering conviction of Arellano and his prosecutors to fight the DOJ secretary, Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan would have been freed in 2010.
In the New Year celebrations of 2018 and 2019, we were blessed with zero stray bullet casualties in Metro Manila. But two days ago, the police arrested 18 people, including policemen and soldiers, nationwide for indiscriminate firing and illegal discharge of firearms.
Are we seeing a case of backsliding in the police and military with more victims of stray bullets this year?
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