Still hoping

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    SOME people tried to plumb President Duterte’s inner recesses on the sudden appointment of Vice-President Leni Robredo as anti-drug czar. Surely, the President could not be acting out of character in tapping the leader of the opposition and the frequent object of his rants to lead his signature drug campaign. Or was he setting up Robredo for an eventuality he and the rest of his administration fears – stepping down as President due to a serious illness or to failing health. Did he struggle with the thought of a difficult transition to a new President from the opposition whose competence and leadership he has questioned? In the end, Mr. Duterte simply squandered a redeeming and momentous event for him and the country.

    ***

    The battle for electricity distribution has gripped Iloilo City amid growing fears among its residents that its electric supply may be seriously affected. A 95-year monopoly of the distribution of electricity is standing in the way of what many believe to be a breakthrough for improved service, upgraded facilities and lower rates. The Panay Electric Co. (PECO) is clinging hopelessly to its operating franchise which it has lost after Congress denied its renewal late last year.

    Business monopolies of utilities and other vital services have been entrenched in many provinces. After then President Fidel Ramos broke up national monopolies in the transport, telecommunications and airline industries he tried to dismantle local business monopolies of utilities, in vain. His efforts were handily blocked by his own political allies in Congress.

    For a decade, PECO has left many dissatisfied customers who eventually sought the intervention of the city council on their concerns; the council would file a formal resolution urging Congress to deny the company a renewal of its franchise. Politics has also entered the wrangling. PECO is also up against Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo Trenas, who has been angrily provoked by its refusal to comply with a court ruling imposing real estate taxes on private utilities like PECO whose tax arrears, according to city hall, has amounted to P90 million as of March 2019. Trenas also took exception to PECO’s top officials brushing aside numerous complaints on the mounting number of electricity pole fires in the city. PECO is faced with a bleak prospect of losing its ownership and control of distribution assets in the upcoming December 12 auction while it has no more reason or legal basis to continue operating unless it is able to redeem these assets within one year, as prescribed by law.

    Unless the Supreme Court issues an injunction against the takeover by a highly-proficient and well-oiled Razon-owned company of its utility distribution franchise or a compromise is reached with the city government, PECO may yet run out of options to survive.

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    Many people, especially non-Bible believers, are not taken by Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s biblical views which he relishes to share. A group of radio broadcasters, this columnist included, trooped to his Senate office last Tuesday afternoon. It was after 6 p.m. and his staff said he had a long day meeting people .He would not welcome any discussion but a brief courtesy call from us was fine.

    When we were finally ushered in to his office, he seemed fatigued and disinterested. But when we informed him of our plan to produce Christian-inspired programs at a leading Manila radio station and at several provincial stations, he lit up and began a discourse on the Bible which he said every Christian should embrace and teach.

    He started quoting from the Bible, especially from the Book of John, and explained how the Holy Spirit changes lives. He expressed disappointment that many Christians have failed to live a “surrendered” and abundant life because of their inability to read the Bible daily and apply its “truths” regularly.