Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Begging for trouble

This is my column today, October 28, 2014.

The public nightmare, which is the government mishandling of the murder of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, continues.    
Marc Sueselbeck, the German fiance of Laude, was prevented from leaving the country over the weekend on the strength of a hold departure order issued by the government.  Apparently, Sueselbeck broke laws and challenged Philippine authorities when he climbed the perimeter fence of the Joint US Military Assistance Group inside Camp Aguinaldo and shoved Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamittan who was manning the gate.  Sueselbeck allegedly wanted to come to the aide of Marilou Laude, sister of the slain transgender woman, who was the first to climb the perimeter fence and confront the military men who were guarding Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine accused of killing Laude.
It must be stressed that Pamittan did display maximum tolerance and professionalism, which was the reason why the incident at Camp Aguinaldo did not degenerate into a brawl.  The commendation he received from the military establishment is deserved.
I understand the need to uphold the country’s laws, particularly when these laws are being violated by foreigners right in our country.  However, subjecting Sueselbeck to additional emotional torture at a time when he is mourning the death of his fiancee - and over a seemingly minor transgression that can be dismissed as irrational behavior brought on mainly by emotions and which he has already apologized for—makes the government looks like it’s begging for trouble.  We do have other problems to worry about in this country.  And there certainly are more important issues around the Laude murder that we need to resolve without the added aggravation of a German fiance screaming discrimination and unfair persecution.
 What is ironic is that Sueselbeck was prevented from leaving so that he can face charges, which consequently carry the maximum penalty of deportation.  For crying out loud, he was already about to say goodbye to the Philippines, anyway.  We could have spared ourselves the added complication.  In fact, if government really wanted to do so, we could have barred him from entering the country forever after he left.
This added wrinkle in the Laude murder does not make sense unless we factor in the allegation that this is just another indicator of just how prejudiced our leaders really are.  There is absolutely no empathy being displayed towards the family of Laude or those who see the murder as indicative of something graver.   The President’s dismissive “I do not attend wakes of people I don’t know” is a concrete example of this.
So apparently, Sueselbeck is being considered an ordinary nuisance, not a grieving boyfriend because, well,   transgenders are not supposed to have real boyfriends.  Sexual minorities do not have rights nor are they entitled to respect.
The government, however, is not alone in its penchant for inviting trouble, or at least shooting itself on the foot.
Vice President Jejomar Binay has started to fight back and engage his detractors in a media war.  In the past he was content with just issuing blanket denials and ascribing political motives to the people who have been questioning his integrity as a public official.  In the last few days, however, it appears as if his camp has finally been able to decide on a public relations campaign to counter the serious allegations of corruption and illegal wealth.  Binay is trumping up the class angle – positioning himself as the champion and representative of the masses.  In short, he is changing the nature of the debate.
I am not sure the tack is wise.  It is very easy to prove that Binay and his family are not and have not been living like the poor in the last 30 years.  We’re not talking about properties supposedly registered under other people’s names; the declared wealth of the Binays and the lifestyle of the family are more than enough to prove that by no stretch of the imagination can he be considered poor.
What the Vice President needs to do is to answer the allegations squarely and effectively.  Not all voters expect their leaders to be lily white, but most do want their leaders to be forthright,  decisive, and sensible – traits that one cannot use to describe the Vice President nowadays.  If he truly is clean, then he just has to face the allegations – if not in the Senate, then somewhere else.  The allegations are not going away, that’s for sure.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Caught up in the surge

This is my column today, October 26, 2014.

This will probably shock or disappoint some people and probably amuse others, but I say this with a great deal of honesty:  Up until last week, I didn’t have the faintest idea what H&M was and why the opening of their first store in Manila would represent The Second Coming to many.  I didn’t realize that my existence was incomplete or that I was not sucking enough marrow out of life by not being familiar with the global clothing brand.  It so happened that I had a lunch appointment in Megamall on the same day the store opened and witnessed for myself the extent to which many people would go to attain that distinction of having been among the first to have bought goods from the latest global franchise to open in Manila.  I was blown away by the dogged determination and commitment of such people.  Apparently, there is some pride to be had in having in one’s possession clothes that were bought on the opening day of a particular store, or at the thought of having bought something ahead of everyone else. 
I was informed there were actually people who stood in line for more than 24 hours just to be first in line when the store’s doors would open; that close to five hundred people patiently queued for hours under the heat of the sun, not leaving their respective slots in the line to grab a quick bite or even to use a bathroom.  Obviously these were not the same people who use the MRT or the LRT, or take other forms of public transportation on a daily basis.  Unlike ordinary mortals in this country, they weren’t ranting about having to wait in line for hours.  They seemed consumed by a lofty goal.
To be fair, the store was supposed to have announced the granting of freebies, discounts, and gift certificates to the first hundred or so customers and presumably many of those who braved the long queues were motivated by the prospects of getting merchandise for free.  I am not sure that getting a five hundred peso discount is worth the sacrifice of controlling certain body functions for almost a day, but then again that’s just me.  I’m probably an ignorant barbarian oblivious to the joys and delights of commercialism.
Okay, so perhaps am not really the target audience of all of these global brands.  I cannot and will not be able to identify the provenance of a particular shirt – say, if it’s by Zara, Topman, or Muji - even if my whole life depended on it.  As far as I am concerned, a plaid shirt is a shirt with intersecting lines and a sweater is a knitted top and their value is dictated by the way these fit or suit the persons wearing these. I don’t really care how much it costs, where it was made, or whose name is etched on a footwear - it would still be tsinelas to me and would still be inappropriate for Church or to a wedding.
But I seriously would like to know:  Do these global stores really need to occupy that much space in our malls?  One such global brand occupies almost a fourth of the second floor of the Mall of Asia, which up until recently, was supposed to be the biggest mall in our continent.  No wonder they charge an arm and a leg for the merchandise that they peddle given the size of the space they rent and the other overhead expenses that they burn on a daily basis.   And seriously, folks, is the hyperventilation over the opening of another clothing store really justified?
Of course these global brands insist on the supposed superior quality of the materials that they use and the supposed craftsmanship that goes into the production process.  But we all know that most everything that is sold in the world emanates from China anyway so how much different can they really be from the other goods that are sold at nondescript stalls for a fifth of the price?  (Here’s an interesting aside.  I once passed by a Japanese store with a friend who happened to speak and read Chinese.  The Japanese store was one of those that sold, well, supposedly  Japanese products at a supposed friendly flat rate of 88 pesos per item. My friend was aghast to discover that most of the goods sold in the store were in fact manufactured in China and the markings on the products were in fact, Chinese, not Japanese as presumed by those who couldn’t recognize the difference between Japanese and Chinese characters). 
Anyway. We all know that heightened commercialism and the propagation of materialism even among the young are but some of the consequences of globalization.  One wishes, though, that we try to temper the surge with campaigns and advocacies that promote certain values that push altruism, nationalism, or even just a little bit of self-discipline and concern for others outside of the self such as the environment.  But then again, who are we kidding?  I would bet my last peso that many of the influential people in Philippine society including elected officials and government leaders were there in Megamall last week.  Our leaders are more than happy to worship at the altar of commercialism so why shouldn’t everyone else do so, right?  There is no one standing up for values that temper the surge of commercialism and this is something that we will have to pay dearly in the near future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Political machinations

This is my column today, October 21, 2014.

The President confirmed yesterday that he did assure Vice President Jejomar Binay, in their closed-door meeting held last week, that the government would be fair in the handling of the investigations being made to look into allegations that Binay pocketed money from various government projects while he was still Mayor of Makati and that he owned a sprawling hacienda in Batangas.  In return, the Vice President was supposed to have promised to continue being an administration ally until the end of this administration’s term in 2016.  As can be expected, people are making personal inferences to what happened last week based on subjective agenda.  There are those who insist that the President’s pronouncements was really neither here nor there and indicated being noncommital.  Others insist that the meeting between the top two officials of the land last week was a reaffirmation of the personal relationship between the two – in short, the equivalent of a peace pact.
Last I looked, people still couldn’t agree on a universal definition of what constitutes fairness so I expect a hell lot of nitpicking on subsequent actions from Malacanan Palace or from the Department of Justice.
But I highly doubt if the investigations on Binay’s alleged many sins would now be dropped, or at least toned down.  First of all, the allegations that have been made against Binay are monstrously huge to be dropped easily without arousing suspicion or creating a backlash.  I am afraid the movement is too far gone to be diffused easily.  The investigations have to continue; otherwise, certain people will definitely lose face. 
Second, I seriously doubt if the matter is within the President’s control, assuming for the sake of argument that he does want to spare Binay for personal or political reasons.  If we are to believe the scuttlebutt, certain powerful factions that walk the corridors of power have on several occasions already sent word that they will resign in masse if the President interferes in certain “advocacies” that they are pushing.  In short, the power trenches have already been dug. 
Besides, a presidential intervention on something that has aroused people’s curiosity would seriously weaken the administration’s moral authority at this point.  As it is, the perception that the administration is being selective in its pursuit of a clean and honest government has already gained traction on account of the fact that political allies continue to enjoy the President’s vote of confidence despite public outcry.
Anyone who thinks that the demolition job on Binay is the handiwork of just two senators is hopelessly being na├»ve.  The notion that the political factions who stand to gain from the murder of Binay’s presidential ambition are mere passive observers to the public spectacle, is at best, laughable.  Of course, certain quarters stand to gain from Binay’s fall from grace.  Of course there are political machinations behind the demolition job.  Decapitating the front-runner in the 2016 presidential race is the best way to advance the fortunes of a candidate who has already been declared as non-winnable.  And then there is the scenario of not having suitable candidates at all, thereby making it easier to sell the idea of a second presidential term.
The nobility in the motivations of certain quarters who are pushing to reveal the truth about Binay cannot be ignored.  We cannot afford to have another president with a serious image problem; nor could we afford to have a leader that would be spending his whole term of office fending off allegations of shady and corrupt deals, or worse, defending himself every year from an impeachment complaint.  Binay just has to answer the allegations squarely.
While I do agree that the overzealousness of certain senators is suspect and that there must be a better way to conduct senate investigations – in particular, in the way witnesses are presented, it must also be stressed that the Vice President is not entirely without resources or connections to defend himself.  For example, it seems like a sad reflection of the abilities of his children – in particular, Senator Nancy Binay and Representative Abigail Binay – that they have not been able to effectively neutralize the smear campaign against their father, or their family.  Perhaps there is really truth to the claim that they lack the necessary gravitas required ordinarily of others not belonging to political dynasties. 
Everything that we are witnessing today is linked to 2016.  What is disheartening to note is that out options seem to be limited to a shortlist produced by political machinations.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hate crime

This is my column today, October 19, 2014.

Jennifer Laude was found dead at the bathroom of a motel in Olongapo City last week. 
The case has been generating media and public attention for two reasons.  First, the suspect in the murder is a United States military personnel who is in the country by virtue of the Visiting Forces Agreement, an arrangement that is perceived by many particularly by nationalists as grossly disadvantageous and unfair to Filipinos.  This is the second time that a US-enlisted man has been involved in sexual crime in the country during the conduct of military exercises under the VFA.  Second, there are quite a number of elements in the story that are, to put it mildly, out of the ordinary.
First of all, the victim was a transgendered woman.   In this country, that’s a sexual identity that invites curiosity, if not outright prejudice and condemnation.  Of course the fact that Laude was murdered under gruesome circumstances (she was drowned on a toilet bowl) has led to some empathy because no one – absolutely no one deserves to die that way.  However, the initial theories forwarded by the police as possible motivations for the murder clearly smacked of institutionalized homophobia.  There were actually comments in social media that suggested she deserved to die.
There was immediate and seemingly automatic presumption that the Laude hoodwinked the heterosexual man into believing that she was a woman, in the process, setting herself up for trouble.   The police actually dared to verbalize the possibility that Laude was killed because no right man would go to bed with a transgendered woman, and that such a deception is a possible excuse for murder. The fact that there were used condoms in the bathroom that suggested the sexual act was consummated, or that Laude was picked up in a very public bar which offered various opportunities for her sexual identity to be revealed, or that there was ample time that elapsed for both parties to get to know each other, and many other factors, were conveniently glossed over.  The deception theory was not only faulty; it was downright prejudiced because it was based on the presumption that men would not go to bed with a transgendered woman and that transgendered women are in the habit of luring straight men to bed under false pretenses.  This is prejudiced thinking because there is growing evidence that there are men who actually go to bed with a transgendered woman and the reasons are complex.
The second theory was even more alarming as it submitted the possibility that Laude was possibly a thief – that she could have been caught in the act of stealing and was subsequently murdered.   Given that Laude had no criminal record, what was even the basis for this theory?  Apparently, this is an extension of the line of reasoning that says transgendered women are capable of stealing since they are involved in the business of deception.  Quite a wild leap in the area of logical deduction, but I guess people do not really question their prejudices.
But why the automatic assumption that she “caused” her murder?  Why the heck couldn’t she be presumed an ordinary victim – someone who was unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person?  Why couldn’t we judge the case and empathize with the victim on the basis of the fact that she was a person with the same rights and liberties, dreams and aspirations, as others?
And then there was the element of Laude being “engaged” to a German national, who very generously allowed himself to be interviewed on public television.  While most chose to keep their peace on the subject of a transgendered woman being engaged to another man, the “curiosity” was palpable.  One could sense the unspoken questions and commentaries that were on people’s minds.  In fact, some people did dare to ask if the German national was aware of Laude’s true gender – again, hinting at the possibility that deceit and trickery are natural predispositions for transgendered people.  Some people even mocked the German national for lacking in certain mental faculties – all because he fell in love with someone who just happened to be a transgendered person.
Laude didn’t deserve to die, and under such inhuman circumstances.   Like many Filipino lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, Laude was the breadwinner in her family and she sent younger siblings to school. She was fun-loving, yes; but she was also a good person based on the testimony of many who knew her.  Her gender should not be an issue in the discussion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One year after Yolanda

This is my column today, October 2014.

In just four weeks, it would be one whole year since the most destructive typhoon ever to visit the country hit most of Visayas and sent the people of Leyte and Samar down on their knees, if not totally prostrate on the ground. 
I am sure there will be efforts to recall the tragedy that happened on November 8, 2013 and in the succeeding days, weeks and months. 
There will be ceremonies to remember the thousands who perished – many of them still unaccounted for and most of them buried in anonymous or makeshift graves and in conditions bereft of the most basic form of respect for human dignity.   I am sure there will religious rites to commemorate the first death anniversary of those who perished as required by the Waray culture.
I am sure there will be efforts to celebrate the heroism of many people, particularly those of ordinary citizens who volunteered their services and resources to aid Yolanda’s victims including those who were victims themselves.  I was in Tacloban City three days after the supertyphoon struck and I can attest that while official relief, rescue and rehabilitation efforts of the government was helplessly caught up in bureaucratic rigmarole, quite a number of volunteer groups from various cities in Mindanao and Luzon were already streaming into Leyte to provide critical assistance.
But I am also quite sure that there will a lot of recrimination and expression of anger and betrayal. 
One year has passed and yet the questions that beg to be answered have not really changed:  What has happened to the much ballyhooed master plan to rebuild Tacloban City?  What happened to the programs meant to help the citizens of Tacloban and nearby towns to recover from the tragedy?  What happened to the many promises and commitments that were made? 
It is true that parts of Eastern Visayas have started to show signs of recovery.  I have reported in this space many vignettes that illustrate creeping signs of recovery and the painstaking process to return to normalcy.  Most of the commercial establishments are now operational and electricity and basic utilities have been restored in most parts of the region.  Roads are slowly being restored.  Land transportation systems are almost back to normal.
But thousands of victims and hundreds of families continue to live in makeshift tents or temporary shelters.  And worse, in areas where their old houses used to be, which have been declared no-build zones.  The much publicized relocation sites have not materialized.  And the promised employment and livelihood programs have seemingly been forgotten.
Thanks to the foot dragging of government, the plane fare to Tacloban City from Manila, is now the most expensive ticket ever.  A cousin purchased her one-way ticket to Manila at almost 10,000 pesos, bought a week prior to departure.  I bought tickets last month for a trip the other week and the cost of a return ticket was almost the cost of a ticket to Singapore or Bangkok.  This is because the runway of the Tacloban Airport is being repaired and only small propeller planes are allowed to land or take off.  Why construction should take five months is a question that has not been answered sufficiently. 
The Pope’s impending visit to Tacloban in January 2015 was initially seen as a welcome development; a symbolic, if not a real sign of deliverance.  Unfortunately, it looks like the visit will not be beneficial for the victims after all.  Not only is there a mad scramble among those in positions of power and influence to get better and preferential treatment and accommodation in terms of seats and schedules during the Pope’s visit, there is also now frenzied efforts to hide remaining signs of the devastation and the neglect.  In the town of Palo, roads are being widened and residents are being asked to surrender their rights with nary a whimper.  I am told there will be efforts to exclude militants and to even whitewash certain areas to sanitize the fact that very little has actually been done by government to directly benefit the victims.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From bad to worse

This is my column today, October 12, 2014.

We Filipinos have very high tolerance for all sorts of inconvenience and difficulties caused by natural or manmade factors. 
We’ve learned to make allowances for traffic, potholes, discourteous or incompetent civil servants, non-availability of services, brownouts, etc.  We don’t make as much fuss anymore when prices of basic commodities or of utilities go up or down at the slightest notice, or even when something as important as rice or garlic momentarily disappear from supermarket shelves.  We even make jokes even when lives are already endangered such as when our public transport systems go berserk.  We’ve learned to look the other way or choose not to notice the grime, the smell, and the lack of air conditioning at our main airport terminal.  We’ve become immune and have learned to accept the ignominious reputation of being host to the worst Airport in the world for the nth consecutive time. 
We make do with what is there. 
We are a resilient, patient, forgiving people.
On a really good day (such as when Manny Pacquiao has a fight), the ride from my house to my place of work can be a swift ten minute-drive.  On an ordinary day, it can take up to an hour.  With the many construction works that are ongoing around the Gil Puyat Avenue area, the ride had become longer.  And in the last two weeks, the ride had become increasingly and horribly longer.  In three occasions in the last two weeks, it took us four hours to get home from work – the same amount of time it would have taken me to go up to Baguio, which is probably a two hundred times farther.  I was luckier.  Many of my friends got stuck for five, six, seven hours on the road. 
Am not sure we should continue to sit still and bear the mounting inconvenience.  First, because it is really unnecessary.  The flooding, the construction works, the extra volume of vehicles – all these can be mitigated.  Second, because it is undeserved.  We deserve better as this administration promised during the campaign.  We should stop playing victims.  
The really sad thing is that no one is taking responsibility for the worsening traffic situation.
Oh I know that the Metro Manila Development Authority has been experimenting with all kinds of solutions – but let’s call a spade a dirty shovel -  so far, nothing has worked.   And things will remain unchanged unless MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino is given full authority and all the necessary resources to make his plans work.  I will admit that certain successes were had in some key areas but they were temporary and the measures of success were hardly worth crowing about.  I took C5 and then Katipunan to get to UP Diliman where I gave a lecture last Saturday and the travel experience resembled a funeral march, I didn’t get to shift the car to higher gear at all.  Some people told me I was luckier because at least the traffic was moving – which, I am told, was already a measure of success.  The things we are forced to be grateful for, indeed.
In fact, it did seem as if this country didn’t have a government or leaders at the national level in the last few weeks.  The President of the country broke surface only once in the last two weeks, and that was on account of the arrival of the biggest airplane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  No one seemed to be in charge of the larger issues. 
Conditions have gone from bad to worse in the Metro, but the only thing that we keep hearing from the Palace are denials about having a hand in the continuing public persecution of Vice President Jejomar Binay.  It’s as if the worsening problems of commuters and citizens do not exist at all.
The problems in Metro Manila cannot be solved by the mayors of the respective local executives working independently of each other.  The MMDA, alone, cannot solve these problems.  What is needed is direct and clear intervention from the top.
But is anyone home?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

More to come

This is my column today,  October 7, 2014.

There are days when things just do not make sense in this country, when God seems to be playing a joke on us—perhaps in an effort to make us sit up and notice just how farcical things have become, or just to illustrate even more painfully some lessons which we were supposed to have learned a long time ago. 
Our collective experience has shown that presidents of this Republic do have a fixed shelf life.  No matter how noble their intentions, no matter how grand their plans, no matter what they do while in office—they begin to stink after a few years. 
I don’t think there has ever been a president in this country who didn’t become unpopular towards the end of his or her term.  This is because the president of this country is expected to be superhuman—able to fix all the problems big and small.  Just last Saturday, while stuck in yet another gigantic monstrous traffic jam in EDSA, my friends started talking about what they would do if they were president of this country.  I was sorely tempted to remind them that the president is not the only elected official, or for that matter, the sole leader of this country, but realized that the president himself created the expectation when the continued insistence that only he can fix what is wrong with this country. 
On the same week that Aquino’s supporters (not necessarily his friends for what kind of friends would want to subject him to six more years of misery) launched the movement to perpetuate him in power, the results of the latest survey were released which indicated an overwhelming lack of mass support for a term extension.  That should have squelched the movement—immediately and effectively.  Sadly, it will take more than results of a survey to convince people of their folly.
On the same week that people behind the Movement for Reform, Continuity, and Momentum or More2Come surfaced, so did the usual problems that have dogged us for decades. 
The traffic situation in Metro Manila and in key cities has grown steadily worse in the last two years alone.  Worst, and even more embarrassing, is the fact that nobody—as in no one among the dozens of people in government—seems to have the faintest idea on what to do to solve the gridlock.  So when people launch a campaign with the promise of “more to come” can people be blamed for recoiling at the idea?
On the same week that we were being convinced that we were happily and successfully trudging along the straight and narrow moral path, the number one cop in the land was being tried in media for dubious deals made while serving as a police general.   The defense he was making was incredibly lame and he was obviously lying through the skin of his teeth when he claimed that his mansion was but an ordinary house, that the palace some businessmen built for him inside Camp Crame came with no strings attached, and that the 65-percent discount given to him when he purchased his luxury vehicle was above board.   Despite all these, he reportedly continued to have the support of the Palace and the President.   Yet we are being told we should hope for more to come?
To be fair, this administration has indeed made headway in some areas, particularly in advancing some critical reforms.  But it is very clear that the problems that we are facing as a country require real leadership. 
But there is an even more compelling reason why we should not lift the term limits of elected officials and, in fact, should strive to impose more rigid controls particularly at the local government level where political dynasties are deeply entrenched.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  We are being convinced that the emergency powers that the President is seeking is for specific purposes – but our experience has taught us, should have taught us better.  We cannot entrust our future to politicians.  And it is a foregone conclusion—our system eventually transforms everyone into becoming politicians.   What we now know is that everyone in this administration has become tradpol, the worst kind of politician there is.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Money making venture at Terminal 3

This is my column today, October 5, 2014.
There’s a new scheme at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that suspiciously smells like a money-making venture of some powerful official. 
In the past, carts were readily available at the various bays for passengers travelling with luggage.  These carts could be had at the passenger gates and security guards readily replenished the supply. 
When we got to the Terminal 3 last week to take a flight to Tacloban, there were no carts available!  Our search for the elusive carts took us to three gates, but there were no carts available.  We tried asking the security guards manning the gates for help, but they were passive and gave lame excuses.  It was as if everyone in Terminal 3 were part of a conspiracy to ensure that passengers to do not get their hands on baggage carts. 
We did notice the new porters in their purple and green uniforms roaming around the arrival area each pushing a cart.  They would approach each new arrival and offer their services and the use of the carts.  We also noticed new portable structures that have been set up outside Terminal 3; ticket booths manned by cashiers where passengers were supposed to buy stubs to pay the porters – one stub for each piece of luggage loaded by a porter on to a cart.  The porters were allowed free access in and out of the Terminal.
Since we were travelling with two boxes, we had no choice but to avail of the services of a porter since we could not get our hands on a cart.  Once inside the terminal, we noted that carts were deliberately parked near the check in counters and far away from the passenger gates.  The porters made sure they each just got one cart when they moved back outside. 
I talked to a security guard to inquire about the new system.  He confirmed what I suspected all along.  They have all been instructed to ensure that the porters would have something to do; in short, to not assist passengers so that we would be constrained to avail of the services of the porters. 
Obviously, someone powerful has cornered the contract to provide the porters at Terminal 3 and has decreed that everyone cooperates to make sure the business venture makes money at the expense of passengers.
Unfortunately for this powerful person, the scheme is bound to fail as passengers become wiser.  I, for one, have vowed to use only luggage with wheels every time I travel so I do not have to get fleeced again by porters.  I also noted that some passengers absolutely refused to buy stubs so they could use the carts being pushed by the porters and instead insist on just paying the porters a tip.  I almost applauded one elderly lady who very bravely just took a cart away from a porter shushing him with the admonition that the carts were public property.
And we thought nefarious schemes have been done away with in our collective march along the straight and narrow path.
For the first time since the strongest typhoon in history leveled Tacloban City and nearby towns in November last year, I visited Robinson’s Tacloban over the weekend.  I was happy to note that the mall is now 90% operational.  Most of the stores and restaurants were thriving.  The mall was likewise brimming with people.  Parking space was difficult to find and we noted that most of the vehicles were new.  
The sad thing, though, is that many still live in tents particularly those in the San Jose area near the airport.  The much ballyhooed relocation has not materialized.
The Tacloban runway is still being repaired so only propeller planes are allowed to land at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport.  The propeller planes have limited capacity, which translates into fares that are quite exorbitant.  One wonders what kind of work is being done at the runway which requires that it be closed for four whole months.  Works at the NAIA runways usually take just a few days or weeks at most; how come the repair of the Tacloban runway is taking that long?  The whole thing reeks of political power play once again.