As I watched the State of the Nation Address (Sona) of Pres. Gloria Arroyo last Monday, I noticed that she peppered her speech with rosy economic figures to hit back at critics who have said her administration has done nothing but plunder the nation's coffers.
Arroyo is currently on her final year as chief executive and her Monday's Sona speech was her last. But, since she hasn't categorically stated that she will not be running for office again--although she's barred from doing so, having served her term limit--there are suspicions that she'll find a way to circumvent this prohibition.
I'm not a political pundit, but my hunch is that the country's first automated polls will push through in 2010 with Arroyo perhaps running, not as president, but as House representative for her home province.
The reason, I believe, why she has refused to issue a clear-cut declaration is because she doesn't want to become a lame-duck president whose actions and decisions would no longer be as potent with a new leader waiting in the wings. But, by keeping the people guessing on her plans, she is able to avoid just that.
Let's go back on her ICT scorecard, a big fraction of which she cited in her Sona. While Arroyo has racked up quite a number of ICT initiatives, including the Philippine Cyber Corridor project that aims to establish ICT hubs all over the country, there were a few that came up short as well.
Although creating the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) through an executive order was a smart move, Arroyo failed to follow up to transform the agency into a full-blown department of ICT (DICT). Didn't she say in the EO (executive order) that the CICT was merely a transitory body prior to the formation of a DICT? It was only last Monday in her last Sona, in her last year in office, that she raised the alarm regarding the much-delayed passage of the DICT bill. Too late, my dear.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) project was a big-ticket infrastructure initiative that blew up as a result of kickbacks and corruption in the high places. On hindsight, the economic agency NEDA, should not have approved the dubious project in the first place. It was a scam, pure and simple.
I was quite amused, therefore, by the comment of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) undersecretary Graciano Yumul who said in a presscon about two weeks ago that the country's science and technology (S&T) sector is currently enjoying its golden age.
Yumul, a respected scientist and academician before he was appointed in his government post, said it was only during Arroyo's uninterrupted nine-year tenure that the S&T sector was showered with the attention and budget it did not previously received.
Although I don't quite agree with him, I won't launch an argument with Yumul, whom I hold in high regard. But, I just hope that what he said is true and that the same thing would also transpire in the ICT sector.
My fellow reporters and I had a long tete-a-tete with CICT chair Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua last week during the launch of Next Wave Cities annual report. He told us that Lorenzo Formoso III, who held the dual posts as head of the Telecommunications Office (Telof) and CICT commissioner, had already resigned.
Formoso, a lawyer, was one of the guys who figured prominently in the NBN controversy and had defended the legality of the contract. At that time, the Telof was under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOCT) before the agency was transferred back again to the CICT early this year.
Graciano Sitchon, Telof's executive director, has been designated as officer-in-charge of the Telof by Roxas-Chua. Sitchon will have to be appointed by President Arroyo before he can assume his commissioner post at CICT.
On the private sector, industry old-hand and Cisco Systems exec Marivic Gamo isn't saying where she's going but her Facebook status updates have revealed that she's moving on--it's not clear if she's just taking another post or is completely leaving Cisco Philippines.