Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Repost From AFP




World's longest tunnel breaks down Swiss Alpine barrier

SEDRUN, Switzerland (AFP) - – A giant drilling machine punched its way through a final section of Alpine rock on Friday to complete the world's longest tunnel, after 15 years of sometimes lethal construction work.

In a stage-managed breakthrough, attended by some 200 dignitaries, 30 kilometres (20 miles) inside the tunnel and broadcast live on Swiss television, engineers from both sides shook hands after the bore had pummeled through the final 1.5 metres (five feet) of rock.

"Here, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, one of the biggest environmental projects on the continent has become reality," said Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger.

Tunnel workers paid tribute to their colleagues who had died on the construction site with a minute's silence as the names of the eight victims were read out during an emotional ceremony for the breakthrough.

"Workers, thank you, thank you, thank you. We have not only built a tunnel, we have written history," said Luzi Gruber of the construction company Implenia.

The 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) high-speed rail link, which will open in 2017, will form the lynchpin of a new rail network between northern and southeastern Europe and help ease congestion and pollution in the Swiss Alps.

It is the third tunnel to be built through the snowbound St. Gotthard area but it is much the longest and three kilometres longer than a rail link between two Japanese islands, the current record holder at 53.8 kilometres.

"The myth of the Gotthard has been broken for a third time. Our forefathers struggled from the Middle Ages onwards to make this mountain passable," Peter Fueglistaler, director of the Federal Transport office, told journalists gathered for the final breakthrough.

Passengers will ultimately be able to speed from the Italian city of Milan to Zurich in less than three hours and further north into Germany, cutting the journey time by an hour.

Once completed, around 300 trains should be able to speed through the Gotthard's twin tubes every day, at up to 250 kilometres per hour (155 mph) for passenger trains.

The 9.8-billion Swiss franc (7.0-billion euro, 9.8-billion dollar) tunnel, which is 9.5 metres in diameter, is also the fruit of strong popular environmental concern about pollution in the Swiss Alps.

Switzerland nonetheless struggled to convince sceptical European neighbours to support the ambitious and costly transalpine rail plans. But Swiss voters helped force the issue in 1994 by supporting a ban on heavy trucks driving across the Alps -- including the expanding flow of transiting EU goods traffic.

A nationwide poll published on Wednesday suggested that sentiment is undimmed, with two thirds supporting a ban on truck traffic through the Gotthard road tunnel and moving it on to rail.

But a senior Swiss official warned the full benefit of the rail tunnel can only be realised if Germany and Italy complete complementary infrastructure.

"For a noticeable amount of freight to be shifted from road to rail, our neighbouring countries Germany and Italy will have to fulfill their contractual obligation to extend access routes," said Peter Fueglistaler, director of the government's Federal Transport Office.

In recent years, Austria, France and Italy have set in motion two similar rail tunnel projects through the eastern and western Alps, which are both planned to exceed 50 kilometres in length in the 2020s.

Apart from the economic and environmental implications, the spotlight was on more than 2,000 tunnel workers, especially following the rescue of Chile's trapped miners.

The builders, who have blasted and bored through 13 million cubic metres (460 million cubic feet) of rock, were feted at a celebration just above the breakthrough point in the mist-bound village of Sedrun.

As the two tunnels became one, tunnelers unfurled a Swiss flag to a thunder of applause.

One of the first to make it through, Hubert Baer, told the crowd: "It's a wonderful feeling, it's an honour to have participated in the construction of the longest rail tunnel in the world."

Reposted From AFP

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Repost From Helen Flores of Philippine Star

Powerful typhoon nears
By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 16, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (9) View comments
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Weather forecaster Mario Palafox shows the position of typhoon Megi as it heads across the Pacific Ocean toward the Philippines on a TV monitor at the Pagasa office in Quezon City yesterday. BOY SANTOS
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MANILA, Philippines - A powerful typhoon that could intensify into the highest hurricane category is barreling toward the Philippines, international storm trackers reported yesterday.

Typhoon “Megi,” which will be called “Juan” when it enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), is expected to make landfall in Northern Luzon in two to four days.

Megi was last spotted 1,200 kilometers east of Southern Tagalog, heading toward the Philippines at 20 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 120 kph and gustiness reaching up to 150 kph, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.

The US Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center on its website said Megi is forecast to reach Northern Luzon within four days.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds were blowing at 167 kph and may strengthen to 250 kph as it approaches the northern part of the Philippines, the center said.

This would make it a Category 5 storm, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale, capable of “catastrophic damage,” according to the US National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) in its website also made a forecast that Megi will turn into a Category 4 storm.

TSR said Megi would exit Vigan City in Ilocos Sur on Monday.

Several weather monitoring websites also made forecasts that Megi would turn into a Category 4 storm, expecting to hit northern Philippines on the weekend.

Pagasa, on the other hand, said the typhoon is expected to make landfall on Monday afternoon, over the eastern coast of Cagayan-Isabela area and exit on the areas of Ilocos Sur and La Union.

Megi is expected to enter the PAR on Friday night or early Saturday, according to Pagasa.

At the same time, Pagasa issued a warning bulletin advising the public of the approach of the powerful typhoon to give them time to take precautions.

Pagasa chief Graciano Yumul said Megi is expected to bring heavy rains like tropical storm “Ondoy” to affected areas.

Ondoy (international name Ketsana) brought a month’s worth of rainfall in a span of hours that inundated Metro Manila and nearby provinces last year.

Pagasa said Juan (Megi) would have strong winds like typhoon “Basyang” that directly hit Metro Manila on July 13, which toppled power lines and left most parts of the metropolis and nearby provinces without power.

Pagasa deputy chief Daniel Servando said Megi could intensify and become a super typhoon.

Servando said strong winds and heavy rains are expected to be felt in some parts of the country, including Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon starting Sunday.

Pagasa senior weather forecaster Robert Sawi said the weather bureau is expected to issue storm-warning signals beginning Sunday morning.

Pagasa is also expected to issue hourly updates on the storm’s location.

For the next 24 hours, Sawi said Central and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao would experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms.

Servando, on the other hand, said the eastern seaboards of Luzon would have rough to very rough seas.

“Fishermen are advised not to venture out over the eastern and northern coasts of Luzon,” he advised.

The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) also issued a warning to fishermen over the approaching typhoon.

“We urge the families of these fishermen who went out to sea last week to text their relatives to come back… we aim for zero casualties,” OCD administrator Benito Ramos said.

“We also urge farmers in Isabela to harvest their crops now,” he said.

Ramos also advised against traveling on Sunday morning, particularly in landslide prone areas of Northern and Eastern Luzon.

Ramos said the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health and local government units have been alerted to prepare evacuation centers as well as food packs and medicine.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said they have already made preparations for the expected typhoon.

PNP deputy spokesman Senior Superintendent Noel Baraceros said national police have already prepared rescue equipment and coordinated with local government agencies for immediate response in areas to be affected by the storm.

“We advise our regional directors to prepare precautionary measures in case the storm hits their area of responsibility,” Baraceros said.

Sen. Loren Legarda also called on local officials to prepare for the approaching storm.

“The challenge is… to make cities resilient to hazards because losses due to disasters are always greatly felt in the local level,” Legarda said.

On the other hand, President Aquino said he is expecting Pagasa to improve its weather updates.

Although admitting that weather prediction is “not an absolute science,” the President maintained there should be areas of improvement, particularly where the storm is going, which is crucial in times of calamity.

“It has to be closer to what will transpire. A storm system can move erratically and we’re trying our best. But we would want to have most timely (information). Significant changes should be made known to the public the soonest possible time,” he said.

Updates, as soon as necessary, must be made, Mr. Aquino said, so that people in the affected areas will be warned about any possible evacuation. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy

Reposted From Philippine Star

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Repost From AP

Chile's textbook mine rescue brings global respect

AP/Alex Ibanez, Chilean Presidential Press Office

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile – Chile's 33 rescued miners posed with the president and were poked by doctors on Thursday, itching to reunite with families and sleep in their own beds for the first time since a cave-in nearly killed them on Aug. 5.

Relatives were organizing welcome-home parties and trying to hold off an onslaught of demands by those seeking to share in the glory of the amazing rescue that entranced people around the world and set off horn-blowing celebrations across this South American nation.

President Sebastian Pinera posed with the miners, most of whom were wearing bathrobes and slippers, for a group photo, and then celebrated the rescue as an achievement that will bring Chile a new level of respect around the world.

The miners and the country will never be the same, Pinera said.

"They have experienced a new life, a rebirth," he said, and so has Chile: "We aren't the same that we were before the collapse on Aug. 5. Today Chile is a country much more unified, stronger and much more respected and loved in the entire world."

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician also promised "radical" changes and tougher safety laws to improve how businesses treat their workers.

"Never again in our country will we permit people to work in conditions so unsafe and inhuman as they worked in the San Jose Mine, and in many other places in our country," said Pinera, who took office in March as Chile's first elected right-wing president in a half-century.

None of the miners are suffering from shock despite their harrowing entrapment, a reflection of the care and feeding sent through a narrow borehole by a team of hundreds during their 69 days trapped underground. Even a team of psychologists helped keep them sane.

"All of them have been subjected to high levels of stress and most of them have tolerated it in a truly exceptional way," said Dr. Jorge Montes, deputy director of the Copiapo Regional Hospital. "We don't see any problems of a psychological or a medical nature."

"We were completely surprised," added Health Minister Jaime Manalich. "We called this a real miracle, because any effort we could have made doesn't explain the health condition these people have today."

After weeks of fear, desperation and finally hope, the miners were pulled out one by one in a capsule that carried them through a narrow tube of solid rock — a dizzying 23-hour marathon of rescues.

The men, their eyes hidden behind sunglasses to protect from the sun and glare of lights, emerged to tears and embraces from relatives, and cheers and patriotic chants, as tens of millions of people watched on television around the world to see a joyful end to the longest known ordeal of men trapped underground.

All of them remain tense and spent a restless first night in the hospital, the doctors said, which is only natural given what they face as they begin their new lives.

For many, what they experience next may be incomprehensible at first.

Honors and offers of jobs and even vacations poured in from around the world for men who walked into a mine on Aug. 5 as workers doing a dirty job to support their children or buy a house. They were lifted out weeks later to find themselves international symbols of perseverance — as well as icons of patriotism at home.

Spain's Real Madrid football team invited the 33 to attend a game in their stadium. Chile's football federation said it would offer a job with its youth teams to Franklin Lobos, a former national team player who had later found himself driving a taxi to make ends meet before he was caught in the mine collapse. It also said it was organizing a "Copa 33" tournament in their honor.

The internationally popular Spanish language variety show "Sabado Gigante" announced it would dedicate a show to "The 33" and invited fans to suggest questions for them.

And a Greek mining company offered to fly each one, with a companion, for a week's vacation in the Mediterranean.

Pinera, meanwhile, vowed that those responsible for the mine collapse "will not go unpunished. Those who are responsible will have to assume their responsibility."

The rescue will end up costing "somewhere between $10 (million) and $20 million," a third covered by private donations with the rest coming from state-owned miner Codelco — the country's largest company_ and the government itself, Pinera said.

Mining accounts for 40 percent of the Chilean state's earnings and the rescue's details were run by its operations manager, Andre Sougarret.

The Aug. 5 collapse brought the 125-year-old San Jose mine's checkered safety record into focus and put Chile's top industry under close scrutiny. Many believe the collapse occurred because the mine was overworked and lacked such essential safety features as a reinforced escape shaft.

The families of 27 of the 33 rescued miners have sued its owners for negligence and compensatory damages. A separate suit was being prepared accusing the government of failing to enforce its safety regulations.

Also suing the San Esteban company is Gino Cortez, a 40-year-old miner who lost his lower left leg a month before the mine collapsed when a rock fell on him in an area that lacked a protective metal screen.

"This mine has to close," rescue coordinator Sougarret said Thursday.

Pinera said he will triple the budget of mine safety agency Sernageomin, whose top regulators he fired after the collapse. He also created a commission to investigate the accident and recommend changes. Some action was swift: The agency shut down at least 18 small mines for safety violations.

"The mine has been proven dangerous, but what's worse are the mine owners who don't offer any protection to men who work in mining," said Patricio Aguilar, 60, of nearby Copiapo, during celebrations of the meticulously executed rescue.

Advances in technology notwithstanding, mining remains a dangerous profession in the smaller mines here in northern Chile, which employ about 10,000 people.

Since 2000, about 34 people have died every year on average in mining accidents in Chile — with a high of 43 in 2008, according to Sernageomin data.

Most of the rescued miners live in Copiapo, a gritty, blue-collar city surrounded by the Acatama desert. Copiapo's central plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers watching the operation on a giant screen as street vendors hawked Chilean flags bearing the faces of "Los 33."

The last miner, shift foreman Luis Urzua, emerged from the Phoenix rescue capsule after the 2,041-foot 622-meter) ascent to a joyous celebration.

With hardhats held to their hearts, Urzua and the president led the rescue team in singing the national anthem. Broadcast by state TV, it seemed ubiquitous in small country of 16 million roiling with pride.

The rescue exceeded expectations every step of the way. Initially, officials said it might be December before the men could get out. Once the drill that opened the escape shaft pierced the men's subterranean prison, they estimated it would take 36 to 48 hours to get everyone out.

The actual time: 22 hours, 39 minutes.

The only real glitch was indeed minor — it became bit difficult to open and close the escape capsule's door as the day wore on, said Laurence Golborne, the mining minister who Pinera put in charge of the rescue. Early Thursday morning, the last rescuer who helped the miners into the escape capsule came up safely to end the operation.

Golborne has won high marks for his deft management of the closely scrutinized rescue, and Chilean media have been abuzz with discussion of him as Pinera's most likely successor. Elected in December 2009 to a four-year term, Pinera is constitutionally barred from running again.

Chile has promised to care for the miners for six months at least — until they can be sure each man has readjusted.

Psychiatrists and other experts predict their lives will be anything but normal.

Previously unimaginable riches awaited men who had risked their lives going into the unstable mine for about $1,600 a month.

At some point, the men will need to decide whether they will return to the mines.

Many of their relatives are dead-set against it, but they also acknowledged that they probably couldn't stop the miners from going down again.

Mario Medina Mejia, a local geologist, said plenty of Chilean miners have returned underground after close calls, and he compared it to sailors who survive shipwrecks only to ply the waves again.

"If they need the work they will return to the mine," he said. "It's their life, their culture, the way they make their living."

___

Reposted From AP

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Repost From Paulo Romero of Philippine Star



GMA gets back at Dinky, holds up OK of DSWD budget
By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated October 14, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (65) View comments

MANILA, Philippines - It’s payback time.

Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo played out her role as opposition leader in grilling administration officials over their budget proposal.

Arroyo’s constant badgering over the proposed P34.3-billion budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) apparently delayed the approval of the budget during plenary session that lasted until midnight.

For the first time since she was elected congresswoman, Arroyo took the floor during plenary deliberations and questioned the capacity of the DSWD to implement the Aquino administration’s P21-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

Arroyo noted the program ate up chunks of budgetary allocations that were intended for other agencies.

Her questioning of the DSWD budget lasted for three hours as she grilled Guimaras Rep. Rahman Nava who defended the agency’s budget with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Arroyo, who pioneered the CCT program in the country, was supposed to be the 30th lawmaker to interpellate Nava but was allowed to raise her issues on the floor after four congressmen finished their interpellations.

Soliman and Nava repeatedly sought the suspension of the deliberations as they sought to answer Arroyo’s questions.

Soliman was Arroyo’s social welfare secretary until she resigned and joined the Hyatt 10 group of former Cabinet members who called on their boss to quit in 2005.

Earlier in the day, a resolution signed by some 52 lawmakers circulated in the House calling on MalacaƱang to reduce the P21-billion CCT budget and realign the proceeds to other agencies that suffered hefty cuts or were given no budgets at all.

Under the CCT program of the Arroyo administration, cash transfers were paid by the DSWD through the Land Bank of the Philippines, amounting to P500 a month per household and P300 a month per child for 10 months a year, with a maximum of P1,400 per month.

Arroyo pointed out that out of the P21-billion funding, only P17 billion would go to the supposed target beneficiaries as P1 billion would be spent for training of DSWD personnel to implement the CCT and another P3 billion as operational costs.

Arroyo said it was obvious that the DSWD could not be able to service its target beneficiaries of 2.3 million poor households next year.

Arroyo also asked Nava for a breakdown of expenses of the P1 billion to be used for the training of 1,891 DSWD personnel as well as the qualifications of those to be hired by the agency to implement the program.

Arroyo noted that many of the poor households that are supposed to be the intended beneficiaries have pregnant women and they should be given pre-natal services.

“We don’t have enough birthing units (in poor areas),” Arroyo said.

“Even if they go to pre-natal advisers, how will they follow the advice if there are no birthing units? Isn’t it better, wiser to put the money in birthing units where we see the need very glaringly rather than in a big scale of CCT where we do not know how it will be implemented,” she said.

Arroyo explained her administration implemented the CCT gradually by taking into account the absorptive capacity of the DSWD as well as other agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) that are part of the program. “With the already inadequate budget of the Department of Education and Department of Health, they will surely be unable to make the facilities needed to comply with the conditionality of the cash transfer.

“For instance, if 1.3 million families will be enrolled (into the CCT), how many new school attendees will there be? If there are four children per family... this means that by giving conditional cash transfer to 1.3 million families, we will encourage an additional 650,000 children to go to school. This would mean approximately 14,500 new classrooms,” Arroyo said.

She said the seeming “unpreparedness in the organization in the support facilities of DepEd and DOH” has all but “doomed (the CCT program) to fail right at the onset.”

Nava defended the DSWD in saying the agency was in close coordination with the DepEd for the availability of classrooms.

Arroyo then asked whether the influx of pupils was taken into account in crafting the DepEd’s budget.

When the DepEd’s budget was consulted, Arroyo noted there was an allocation of P12 billion for “basic education facilities,” which she said could mean anything.

“There’s no line item for construction of schools... this is a very strange way to present a budget,” Arroyo said.

She added that it would take time for classrooms or health facilities to be built.

Arroyo also said the trainings could take over a year to complete so it was not clear how the DSWD could implement the CCT program and disburse the budget next year.

She said the system “is not prepared to absorb the volume of additional beneficiaries in just one year.”

Arroyo said the huge outlay came at the expense of the budgets of the judiciary, state colleges and universities, farm-to-market roads, as well as allocations for Visayas and Mindanao.

Nava admitted the CCT program would also be funded by foreign loans.

“I’m not against the increasing the number of beneficiaries but a sudden and massive increase by more than double its previous amount seems both ambitious and untimely,” Arroyo said.

“It would be irresponsible to allocate a budget for the program that is not yet fully prepared and the details may look very nice on paper, but I’ve been there Mr. Speaker, the implementation is certainly not that simple,” Arroyo told her colleagues during the plenary debates. ]

Reposted From Paulo Romero of Philippine Star

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Repost From GMA News.TV



Aquino signs proclamation giving amnesty to 'mutineers'

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III said he has signed a proclamation granting amnesty to soldiers involved in the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 and the Marine standoff in 2006.

In a chance interview on Tuesday, Aquino said the approval of both chambers of Congress is needed before the decree could take effect.

"I signed it [the proclamation] yesterday (Monday)," he said.

"The process is there's a proclamation, which needs concurrence by both chambers of of Congress, then it becomes a law," the president said.

He added that the Department of National Defense will then process the applications for amnesty if the proclamation is approved.

If approved by Congress, the proclamation would pave the way for the release of detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Trillanes, a former Navy official, is facing charges before military and civilian courts for his participation in two attempts to overthrow the Arroyo administration. — LBG/VVP, GMANews.TV

Reposted From GMA News.TV

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Repost From Thea Alberto Of Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Aquino orders charges vs. Lim, Ombudsman and police officials

By Thea Alberto – October 11th, 2010
600nppa_pnoy

By Thea Alberto
Yahoo! Southeast Asia

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has ordered that administrative charges be filed against police officials and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, among others for “incompetence” and “neglect of duty” during the Quirino hostage crisis that left eight tourists from Hong Kong dead.

In a press briefing Monday, Aquino announced that those he wants charged before the National Police Commission are:

  • P/Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay for gross incompetence and serious neglect of duty (under Sec. 2, Rule 21 of the PNP Uniform Rules);
  • Police Director Leocadio Santiago Jr. for less grave neglect of duty (under Sec. 2, Rule 21 of the PNP Uniform Rules);
  • P/Supt. Orlando Yebra for neglect of duty (under Sec. 2, Rule 21 of the PNP Uniform Rules);
  • Police Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual III for gross incompetence (under Sec. 2, Rule 21 of the PNP Uniform Rules)

Aquino also wants Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim charged before the Department of Interior and Local Government for “misconduct in office and simple neglect,” under Sec. 60 of the Local Government Code.

Administrative charges will also be filed against Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III for neglect of duty and inefficiency in the performance of official duty (under Rule XIV, Sec. 22 of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of E.O. 292 and other pertinent civil service laws, rules and regulations) and gross misconduct (under Sec. 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

Aquino said he would also refer the IIRC report to the House of Representatives for appropriate action against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. He said he also tasked the Department of Justice to expedite the resolution of disobedience and conspiracy case against SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of hostage taker Rodolfo Mendoza.

Warning to media

For media, Aquino said no charges would be filed against RMN news anchors Michael Rogas and Erwin Tulfo but he described their behaviors as “irresponsible, bordering on the criminal.”

Rogas was the news anchor when the hostage taker aired his rants over RMN, which Aquino said practically “interfered in the negotiations and effectively aided and supported the hostage taker by giving him a platform to air his demands.”

Meanwhile, Tulfo “by his admission” violated police instructions.

“We expect this kind of unprofessional behavior not to be repeated again, or we could be compelled to ask Congress for appropriate regulations to protect the safety of the public, our security forces and media itself,” Aquino warned.

No charges vs. Verzosa, Robredo, Puno

Aquino opted to admonish and not recommend charges against DILG Acting Secretary Jesse Robredo and Undersecretary Rico Puno.

“I have also admonished Secretary Robredo and Undersecretary Puno for failing to uphold the high standards of performance that I demand from them. I sat them down last night. The outcome was a commitment for more professionalism, starting with their acting as one,” said Aquino.

Aquino said he would also be keeping Robredo and Puno in their posts despite the controversies hounding them because of the expertise in public service.

Meanwhile, no charges will be filed against then PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa.

“Did he violate anything? After the review, we cannot find the same,” said Aquino

Repoted From Thea Alberto of Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reposted From Chit Estella of Vera Files

Former professor unimpressed with PNoy

By Yahoo! Southeast Asia Editors – October 9th, 2010
600malacanang_noynoy

By Chit Estella, VERA Files

For Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Many Filipinos might have been pleased with President Noynoy Aquino’s performance in the first 100 days of his term—but not his former professor at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Unlike most teachers who would have been proud of their former students, Prof. Pablo Manalastas, math professor at the Ateneo, said Aquino has not yet done anything impressive. “I don’t see anything earth-shaking happening yet,” he said, adding he is giving the president “barely passing marks” for the beginning of the latter’s six-year term.

Manalastas is now with the Ateneo’s Department of Computer Information Systems and with the Automated Election System (AES) Watch, a project of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance.

Enumerating his economic achievements in his speech on Thursday, Aquino said investor confidence in the Philippines has returned. He added that more than $2 billion in foreign investments would be coming in and generating 43,600 jobs.

He also said that his administration has prevented the misuse of millions of pesos by certain government agencies by removing the allowances and bonuses of officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations who were appointed by the previous president. Likewise, negotiated contracts in agencies like the Department of Public Works and Department of Agriculture were reviewed to save more money for the government.

Manalastas, however, said former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo might have even done better for the economy during her presidency.

“Although I did not support her, (I can say that) she enforced measures that helped the economy,” he said, stressing however that those measures—which included encouraging Filipinos to seek jobs abroad—remain controversial.

Manalastas also said Aquino’s achievements in fighting corruption are, for now, “just words.” “These should be accompanied by action,” he said.

He also expressed disappointment with Aquino’s behavior during the hostage-taking incident of August 23 where eight Chinese tourists and the hostage taker were killed. Aquino’s speech on his first 100 days did not mention the incident which became the worst crisis to hit the fledgling presidency. China had criticized the Philippine government for the latter’s incompetent handling of the situation.

“I do not like Gloria but she would have taken matters into her hands,” he said, adding he had expected Aquino to be “visible” during the crisis. Instead, Aquino appeared on national television during a press conference at 12:30 a.m. the following day. He narrated the events that led to the bloody ending, blaming media coverage and the outburst of the brother of the hostage-taker for the escalation of the crisis.

Manalastas said Aquino should have been more hands-on in such a situation.

But the professor’s unfavorable assessment of Aquino should not come as a surprise. “I did not vote for him for president,” he admitted.

“All of Ateneo voted for him but I didn’t. I met so many priests and nuns and they were all for Noynoy. I could not understand why they were all for Noynoy,” he said.

Explaining why he did not vote for Aquino, Manalastas said, “I had this idea that a president must be smart.” Resignedly, however, he said, “But as long as it’s not Gloria, it’s okay. But I did not expect much from him.”

Manalastas’s less-than-overwhelmed assessment of his former student may have something to do with Aquino’s performance at the Ateneo. Back then as a college student, he recalled that Aquino, though diligent, was an average student.

“I remember him very well because he got a C+ which allowed him to stay at the Ateneo,” the professor said. On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 as the highest), Aquino rated a 2.5.

“He was not among my best students; he just made it,” Manalastas said. Performing better than Aquino were his cousins Robert and Paul.

“The best Aquino student was Paul,” he said of the Aquino cousins who became his students at different periods. He had seen Noynoy’s sister Kris on campus but never became her professor.

Still, Manalastas observed that Noynoy had certain things going for him. “He was never absent. He was very well-behaved and very silent,” he said.

And so, “I had no inkling he was ever going to be president,” the professor said.

In fact, no Filipino probably ever thought that the low-key son of slain senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late president Corazon Aquino would one day be elected to the highest post in the land. Noynoy’s political star rocketed after the death of his mother who remained a beloved icon among Filipinos even though her presidency has been described as well-meaning but incompetent.

Now that Aquino is president, Manalastas said he would still like to see his former student do better for the country economically and politically.

“I am hoping he does well because our country needs a break,” he said, “We need a break, economically and politically.”

Reposted From Chit Estella of Vera Files

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