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Rough Cuts | Harsh way of making debtors pay

A breaking news advisory late last Sunday evening quoted Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as saying that Vice President Leni Robredo’s co-chairmanship of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD) has been terminated.

Of course nobody else can terminate her co-chairmanship but only the appointing authority – the President.

As we wrote this column we haven’t read in the papers, nor heard on television the reason of the termination. But already we can deduce why the President felt that he has had enough of the Vice President’s presence in the ICAD even in just two weeks since she assumed office.

Honestly we believe that there is no question as to the sincerity of the Vice President’s intention to help in the campaign of the administration against illegal drugs. But somehow she started on the wrong footing and she talked too soon.

For us the VP’s first wrong move was her calling for an ICAD meeting even before she sought audience with the President to clarify her status as well as the scope of her responsibilities. And she kept on saying that she would not attend a Cabinet meeting unless she gets an invitation.

Our take on the matter is that the Vice President should have requested a meeting with the President first and in that meeting get an affirmation of her status as a member of the Cabinet from the President himself.

That way, she could have shown to the President that even if she belongs to the opposition she is willing to let her pride down in order to do her part in serving the people. But what the VP did instead was disclosed to the media first that she has not yet talked with the President regarding her status and her responsibilities. Yet, she was already discharging the functions she claims she wanted to be clarified on.

And perhaps, her biggest omission was her meeting with certain officials from the United States embassy and some United Nations Anti-illegal Drugs body. We do not know if the Vice President has any idea of the level of disdain the President has on that particular UN drugs body and its Human Rights committee because of the latter’s dislike of the Philippine chief executive’s anti-illegal drugs policy.

From where we are perched we view VP Robredo’s seeking the help of the UN body and even with her meeting with US embassy officials as some kind of feigning ignorance on the President’s hatred on unsolicited foreign governments’ intervention.

However, in spite of the apparent negative reactions by the President and his men on the moves of VP Robredo, she still keeps on harping that she believes she was taken in as ICAD co-chair without the trust of the administration and some of its top men.

The Palace retort on that particular VP’s lamentation was simple and telling – trust is earned, not demanded.

And that was what VP Robredo missed out when she started doing things as ICAD co-chair that crumbled the President’s trust on her even before she could start building its foundation.

Yes, VP Leni was given a second shot at redemption by the Duterte Presidency. But somehow she bungled that opportunity.
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Here is one report that might interest the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and some other government agencies that might have province over this kind of activity by some companies offering sale of merchandise on credit terms.

We attended last Sunday a housewarming tendered by a nephew who just came home from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His visitors were mostly friends way back when he was still a struggling pedicab driver in Calinan district.

Of course, he was basking on the reward of his three years hard work in Jeddah – the house that he built and completed, and the very one being warmed.

After the usual gastronomic feast came the booze and the sharing of life experiences. In a few while not one but three pedicab drivers shared their not-so-comfortable experience in their acquisition of the latest model of pedicabs now seen in the centers of development of Davao City’s townships like Calinan, Toril, Mintal and Lasang, Buhangin, as well as in Bunawan. These are the tricycles the design of which is patterned after those that lord over the streets of the suburban Thailand and India. These are the sturdy and powerful pedicabs that have its passengers facing frontward and seated comfortably like riding the modernized jeepney. The trike drivers call the unit, umbak. We do not know if the term is derived from an Indian or Thailandese dialect. We can only assume by the way it sounds when pronounced.

But it is not the catch here. What is revealing and maybe even revolting to the stomach is the use of modern technology by its manufacturer to ensure that the debtor -owner of an umbak unit pays the amortization on schedule.

According to the pedicab unit owners we have talked to the manufacturer, in connivance with the dealers has developed a technology that allows remote control shutting off of the umbak’s engine a day after its debtor owner fails to pay its straight weekly (repeat, weekly) installment of P1,600 in a “no-down payment” transaction.

In other words, after one misses paying his/her installment on schedule, the day after the pedicab driver would never be able to start his engine. It’s very similar to a cable or satellite television subscription.  Once the loaded card hits one month the signal goes pffffht. It will only be restored after a new card of so much is loaded.

In the case of cable television subscribers, after two months of non-payment it’s goodbye to the signal on your boob tube.

What we thinks is dangerous applying the same scheme on the “umbak pedicab” is when the shutting off of the motor vehicles engine is done when the unit is negotiating a curb or an uphill road and carrying passengers or cargo. Doing such could result to an accident that may cause injuries or even death.

Besides, there is a hell of difference between shutting off electronically a television or communication signal, and abruptly stopping an engine of a passenger vehicle. The latter has lives put at risk while the former it is only a deprivation of some little luxury to people.

Our question here is whether or not certain rights  –  that of the pedicab passengers and owners – are being violated by the modern technology procedure?

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